A female bodyguard with enhanced abilities. A billionaire playboy committed to destroying people like her. A romance they didn’t expect…
Dive into the first book in the fantastic new Protector series set in the near future from New York Times bestselling author Megan Hart!
Nina Bronson used to be all human -- until the experimental surgeries and internal technology that saved her life and enhanced her as a soldier also forced her to leave the army for private service. Now she and her peers are facing slow, painful deaths unless their technology is upgraded, and the one man keeping those upgrades illegal and unavailable is an obnoxious billionaire. A man too gorgeous for his own good.
A man she’s supposed to guard with her life.
Ewan Donahue is the public voice speaking out against the enhancement procedures of injured soldiers. But when his lobbying leads to death threats, he needs someone to protect him around the clock. He doesn’t want to rely on an enhanced soldier—Nina’s tech goes against everything he stands for. But he really doesn’t want her to be beautiful like she is. Doesn’t want her to suffer like she will.
Doesn’t want to succumb to the searing desire he feels for her.
As a series of attacks on his life send them to a remote cabin, their close proximity brings them together in ways they never imagined. They know they must prevent the need simmering between them, resist each other at all costs. But when tensions are high and danger is close, passion burns hottest of all…
About the Author
Megan Hart writes books. Some of them use a lot of bad words, but most of the other words are okay. She can’t live without music, the internet, or the ocean, but she and soda have achieved an amicable uncoupling. She can’t stand the feeling of corduroy or velvet, and modern art leaves her cold. She writes a little bit of everything from horror to romance, though she’s best known for writing erotic fiction that sometimes makes you cry.
Megan is the author of The Protector novels, including Dangerous Promise, Wicked Attraction, and Forbidden Stranger.
Read an Excerpt
Assess the situation.
Protect the client.
Eliminate the threat.
— NINA BRONSON
Ewan Donahue looked like the worst kind of trouble.
And, despite those broad shoulders, the sleekly perfect slope of his jaw as he turned to glare at her, and that habit he had of tossing his slightly overlong dark hair out of his flashing hazel eyes, he was not the sort of trouble Nina Bronson was going to let herself get into.
Not because he was her boss, since technically he was just the guy paying for her services and not the person in charge of her. No, Nina had a lot of other reasons for putting distance between herself and one of the world's most eligible billionaires, and Donahue himself had already made it clear precisely what he thought about her. He'd looked her dead in the eyes but gripped her hand a few seconds too briefly to keep their greeting polite. As though her skin had burned him.
Like there was something distasteful about touching her.
She couldn't be surprised at his reaction, could she? After all, the entire world knew how Donahue felt about the enhanced, and he wasn't the only person who'd ever reacted to her that way. Dealing with prejudice was part of this new life she'd been given, not condemned to. Nina made the effort now to keep her hands from becoming fists, her tone neutral but firm.
"You were given all the specs and requirements before I arrived," she told him patiently.
Her voice didn't rise. She kept her expression bland and deliberately nonconfrontational. Even if she were capable of rage, she'd have kept her temper in check. Donahue was a client, and clients, while not always right, at least were supposed to be allowed to think they were.
Her tone was chilly and polite, and she didn't tack a "sir" onto the end of her sentence, though everyone else who spoke to him did. Nina had arrived at Woodhaven, Donahue's vast and exceedingly private estate, twenty minutes ago. In that time, Donahue had interacted with exactly a dozen different staff members who'd practically bowed and scraped during the conversations with their employer, while he'd barely seemed to notice the obsequiousness. Or the employees themselves, as a matter of fact, something Nina noticed.
She'd arrived here directly from her last gig without even taking time to head home first, because Donahue had paid double the usual acquisition fees in order to get her there. She wasn't tired — Nina no longer got tired, really, unless she'd been running on empty for days on end. She was, however, cranky.
"You hired me," she continued, "for a purpose."
"Exactly. I hired you." He jabbed a finger in her direction.
"As I understand it, you did so because of a recent threat to your life that happened last night," she said, gesturing at the faint scratches on Donahue's left cheek. "Broken glass from the shattered restaurant window. You're lucky. It doesn't look like it's going to scar."
Donahue paused and put his hands on his hips. He wore only a pair of loose synth cotton trousers. Bare feet and chest. That head of thick dark hair was rumpled from what Nina assumed must have been a fairly sleepless night. For a man balking so fiercely at compromising his modesty, he sure didn't seem to be worried about being almost naked in front of her.
"Lucky, too, that nobody else was hurt," she added.
That seemed to rustle him. "Why do you think you're here, now? To stop something like that from happening again."
"I can't stop anyone from attacking you, Mr. Donahue. I can only make sure that if or when that happens, you'll be protected."
In her two-year stint working with ProtectCorps, Nina Bronson had been in charge of more than a dozen senators, CEOs, philanthropic recluses, and once, an actual princess. The princess had been the easiest to deal with. She'd been used to being protected, while the men under Nina's care had been accustomed to being obeyed. It made a big difference in how they reacted.
Nina had learned the ways of the wealthy and powerful early on in this gig — you let them do what they thought they wanted to do while guiding them toward the safest way for them to do it, and when that failed, you took a bullet for them if you had to. If you were too slow to get them out of the way first, that was. She'd never been too slow, not yet, but then she hadn't ever taken on a man as bull headedly stubborn as the one in front of her.
Donahue scowled. "Yeah, well, I'm a hundred percent certain that doesn't mean you have to follow me into the toilet."
Nina had been told once by an ex-lover that the specific smile she now gave Donahue could freeze a volcano. Connor had meant it as a compliment, probably because they'd never been more than casual bed partners. Now she warmed the grimace only slightly. "If you're not going to let me do my job properly, then I'm going to have to subdue you."
She could put him on his back in seconds, if she had to. Straddle him, maybe, her thighs hugging the jut of his hips as he struggled beneath her. The thought sent a shiver tickling up and down her spine, an unwelcome and unexpected frisson of tension. Her chin lifted as she studied him. She was on the job, not on the prowl, and this man was never, ever going to be an option.
The threat, and it was a threat, not a suggestion, got him to listen. Donahue did a double take. Dark arched eyebrows rose. "You're kidding. Right?"
Nina's smile did not change.
Donahue scowled. "Subdue me? What the hell does that mean?"
"Do you really want to find out?"
He tried to stare her down, but she didn't budge. When he tried to step around her, she stepped, too, so quickly it was as though he were the one getting in her way, not the other way around. He tried again in the opposite direction, but she was faster. She'd always be faster, Nina thought with a certain grim satisfaction but no joy.
"I thought you'd been briefed on how this works. You are not to go anywhere without me. Not to your office, not to the kitchen for a snack. Not to answer the door for pizza delivery —"
"Someone else answers the door," Donahue said.
Of course they did.
She wanted to laugh, both at his disgruntled look and his sly retort. She might have thought it was his attempt at humor, if he hadn't been so clearly angry. Nina remained calm. Unruffled, although she hadn't even been here for an hour, and he'd already obstructed every single one of her instructions.
"I am to be with you at all times," Nina said. "I made that clear when I arrived. Nothing about that has changed. Nothing about that will change as long as I am employed as your protector. I signed a contract. You signed a contract. There really shouldn't be anything to argue about."
Donahue had balked at her moving a cot into his bedroom. She'd explained that her role as protector meant she needed to be there even when he slept, perhaps especially at night when he was likely to be more vulnerable to attacks. Yes, even in his own home where he had installed hundreds of thousands of credits' worth of security systems, one of which now included her. He'd finally allowed the cot, begrudgingly, but now he was hollering about her following him into the bathroom.
Donahue spoke with his hands. Big hands. Strong. Expressive. The habit would've been charming on a man she wasn't already inclined to dislike.
"This is ridiculous!" His hands painted the picture of his dismay in the air. When he turned to face her, he caught her staring at his fingers. He curled them into fists at his sides.
Tension sprouted between them that had nothing to do with his lean body or that handsome face. His aggression was a trigger, putting her body and senses on alert. Ready to fight, defend. Protect. Of course, she was supposed to be protecting him, not fighting him, but fortunately for Ewan Donahue, Nina had not only learned to control her reactions, but there were some triggers she simply could no longer respond to. He could try to push her into anger to get a rise out of her, if that was his thing, but it wasn't going to work.
It hadn't always been that way. In the first days of her recovery, she'd broken her knuckles throwing punches. Broken other people worse than that. If Donahue knew how brutal Nina was capable of being, he might not be moving so menacingly close to her, she thought, her expression indifferently bland. Her body was ready but controlled. You never knew with men like him. He might get off on the idea of pushing her to the limit.
"I understand, Mr. Donahue. You want your privacy. You're used to autonomy."
And telling other people what to do, not being told yourself.
Nina continued, "What you need to understand is that you've had a total of fifty-seven confirmed, serious death threats made in the past three and a half weeks. Previously, you've had three actual attempts on your life. Two of your former bodyguards were killed protecting you —"
"Enough." Donahue flinched, his cheeks flushing the faintest hint of red. A brush of heat came off him, subtle but definite. "Yes. I know. I feel like shit about it, thanks so much for reminding me I'm the reason two good men are dead."
She bit her tongue for a moment before answering, more gently this time. Leona Smart, the owner of ProtectCorps and Nina's direct supervisor, insisted all of her employees take courses in sensitivity training. Nina had never been very good at it, although she tried. "I understand how hard that must have been, Mr. Donahue. Believe me, I do."
"How could you possibly?" He stalked from one end of the room to the other, pivoting on a bare heel to stare at her.
She'd read his files and knew he had no martial arts or military training or anything like that. Even so, the man moved like a predator, some kind of big cat, all sleek muscles and rolling gait. She wouldn't have been surprised to see him snarl. Her heart tried to thump a little faster at what it would be like if he did, indeed, come at her physically. He couldn't beat her, but he might be an interesting challenge.
"I was a soldier," Nina replied simply. "I saw lots of good people die, and sometimes, it was my fault."
Donahue went quiet at that. Contemplative. His lightweight pajama bottoms hung low on lean hips, and his sculpted abs flexed when he paced. Donahue had the body of a man who spent a lot of time making sure he looked good. With a small, internal sneer, Nina imagined her own scars on flesh covering muscles, sinews, nerves, and bones she'd worked hard to make strong even before her enhancements. She didn't have to be pretty. She had to be fierce.
"I'm sorry," he said after a moment, surprising her. "I know you were. And I respect the work you did —"
"Good. Many don't."
She'd been spit on more than a few times. Catcalled. The Second Cold War had been a lot hotter than the first one, and it had not seen a lot of civilian support. In school she'd learned about the Vietnam War, how the returning soldiers had been castigated and reviled. History did have its way of repeating.
That she could not actually remember most of her time in the army was not something she intended to point out to him. Donahue was already a vocal and public opponent to the enhancement procedures she'd endured to save her life and which had made her the woman she was today. The same woman who could, and would, subdue him in order to save his stubborn, arrogant life a dozen times over, if she had to. She folded her arms across her chest and widened her stance. If he tried to push past her, she would not hesitate to put him down, panther muscles or not. At this point, putting Ewan Donahue in his place would be a pleasure that had nothing to do with how good he looked without his shirt.
He crossed his arms over his naked chest, drawing her attention to the bulging, shifting, and straining muscles of his pecs and biceps. Was he ... flexing?
Nina was neither impressed nor intimidated by this show, although she had no trouble admiring it. "I thought you had to use the facilities."
"Look," he said, his tone conciliatory now. A negotiator. Lobbyist, convincer. "There's such a thing as personal privacy."
Nina wasn't convinced. "I'm fully aware of that, and of course I'm entirely capable of selective sight, which allows me to pixelate whatever it is I'm not supposed to be seeing. It's pretty convenient."
"Oh. Right. Selective sight." Donahue's lip curled.
"And hearing," she added with a small smile, even though watching his disgusted reaction stung her in a place she could never seem to shield, no matter how often she was wounded there. It should only matter that he believed she could do the job he'd hired her for, not whatever else he thought about her as a person, but that subtle, invasive sense that Donahue didn't think of her as a full, real person dug deep.
"In case there's stuff I'm not supposed to hear. I mean, it's all recorded in case someone later needs to access it. But I won't have access to it." She added that last bit as a dig of her own, to remind him of not only who, exactly, she was, but also what. She wanted to rub it in his face. Her enhancements, what she could do in the pursuit of his safety. She wanted him to hear it and know and ... well, to see it. To see her.
"Yeah, well, I'm not capable of either of those things," Donahue said. "If you don't leave my side even for a second or so, what about when you have to use the facilities?"
Her smile didn't falter. "I'm sure you've read all the materials about the enhancement procedures, Mr. Donahue. So then you know that I'm also capable of maintaining amazing control of all my bodily functions."
The man actually blushed this time. A rising flush crept up his chest and throat to tinge his cheeks, and she was able to register the slight rise in his body heat. It was surprising, that reaction, but it made him seem no less a predator than he'd appeared before. "I'm aware of the procedures and results, yeah."
"Then you know I can hold it for a long time," Nina said smoothly. "But seriously, I'm sure you're about to burst. So if you'd rather continue to argue with me until you lose control ..."
"I don't," Donahue snapped, "ever. Lose. Control."
Another of her serene smiles pushed more crimson heat into his cheeks. Nina stepped aside from the bathroom door with a flourish and a small, deliberately obnoxious bow. "Good. Neither do I."
He should fire her and demand his money back — it had been an obscene amount of money, even for Ewan, who hadn't bothered to ask the price of an item or service in at least a decade. The cost of keeping him alive hadn't mattered to him, but he hadn't realized the services would come along with such a load of bullshit.
Selective sight and hearing, she'd said, as though this was news to him. What Nina didn't know was that Ewan had funded the research that allowed for those functions in the first place, along with most of the others she could brag about. More than funded; he'd invented and programmed the original tech and enhancement software that had transformed her from a normal, human woman into some kind of super soldier.
Not a cyborg, he reminded himself as he used the toilet, his back facing her but with full awareness that she stood close enough to grab him if she wanted to, or that all she had to do was lean in a little bit to see everything nature had blessed him with. Not a robot. She hadn't been fitted with metal limbs or artificial organs. Just a series of nanochips connected to her brain and nervous system, the tech running specialized software that allowed her greater than natural control over her bodily functions. Endurance, strength, focus. Special functions that could erase her memories of anything top secret or confidential with nothing more than a preprogrammed series of codes. None of that was supposed to come along with a smartass attitude.
It hadn't been meant to come along with that face, either. Pale amber eyes fringed with curling dark lashes and sparkling with barely restrained humor and yeah, right now, mockery. Smooth bronze skin free of any kind of makeup that he could see. A lush, full mouth that wouldn't quit. And her hair ... universe help him, even pulled back into the tight, utilitarian braid at the base of her neck, he could see it was thick and silky, as dark as his deepest fantasies.
Because that what she was, right? A fantasy, something he'd dreamed up a long time ago, when he'd believed the tech would make life better for those who were enhanced. Before he realized how messed up that was. Playing at being the One-god in a world where religion had become regarded as no more real than fairy tales.
Nina Bronson was a fantasy, all right, but one Ewan could no longer allow himself to imagine.
He turned from the toilet, half-expecting to see her smirking, but she was looking carefully uninterested, her gaze settled somewhere to his left. "I need to take a shower. Sure you don't want to climb in there with me?"
Excerpted from "Dangerous Promise"
Copyright © 2018 Megan Hart.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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