Guardian For Hire

Guardian For Hire

by Christine Bell
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Overview

Guardian For Hire by Christine Bell

Sarabeth Lucking’s reputation is in tatters after the couples' retreat she works for is embroiled in the biggest scandal of the year. She can't imagine things getting worse, until someone starts killing her former co-workers, and a bad-ass, ex-Army Ranger shows up hell-bent on protecting her. Sarabeth insists she doesn’t need his help…until her car explodes into a ball of flames.

Protecting Dr. Stick-Up-Her-Rear isn't on Gavin McClintock bucket list. But a promise is a promise, and he’s ready to do whatever it takes to keep Sarabeth safe. When she sheds her librarian-in-mourning look in favor of a sexy new disguise, she shows Gavin the Sarabeth that’s been hiding beneath that shell of propriety, and soon it’s Gavin’s heart in danger.

Each book in the Guardian for Hire series is a standalone story that can be enjoyed out of order.
Series Order:
Book #1 Wife for Hire
Book #2 Guardian for Hire

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781622663309
Publisher: Entangled Publishing, LLC
Publication date: 01/13/2014
Series: For Hire , #2
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 201
Sales rank: 109,032
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Christine Bell is the USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romances, and one half of the happiest couple in the world. She and her handsome hubby currently reside in Pennsylvania with a four-pack of teenage boys and their two dogs, Gimli and Pug. She doesn't like root beer, clowns or bugs (except ladybugs, on account of their cute outfits), but lurrves chocolate, going to the movies, the New York Giants and playing Texas Hold 'Em. Writing is her passion, but if she had to pick another occupation, she would be a pirate...or, like, a ninja maybe. She loves writing fun, sexy romances, but also hopes to one day publish something her dad can read without wanting to dig his eyes out with rusty spoons. Christine also writes erotic romance under the pen name Chloe Cole and YA fiction as Christine O'Neil.

Read an Excerpt

Guardian for Hire


By Christine Bell, Kerri-Leigh Grady

Entangled Publishing, LLC

Copyright © 2014 Christine Bell
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-62266-330-9


CHAPTER 1

Sarabeth Lucking stared at her monitor without blinking, utter disbelief keeping the horror temporarily at bay.

Nico Stefanopoulis, alleged con man and principal player in the high-profile scandal that occurred at his couple's retreat, The Healing Place, was found dead today in his Los Angeles penthouse apartment. LAPD has refused to comment on the cause of death, but the Times has learned that Stefanopoulis is not the only person involved in the notorious blackmailing scheme to have met with tragedy in recent weeks.

Her fleece hoodie, damp with sweat from that morning's run, chilled against her skin, and she suppressed a shiver. There was no need to scroll down and read further. She knew the rest. First Liza. Then Marcel. Now Nico. It didn't take a PhD to see the pattern.

Bracing her elbows on the desk in front of her, she buried her head in her hands. Tears pricked the back of her lids, but she blinked them back. She wouldn't cry for that bastard. He'd ruined her life ... all of their lives with his greed and dishonesty.

And now he was dead.

Salty droplets streaked down her cheeks and plunked onto the keyboard, skittering off the well-worn keys. Damn it, Nico.

Her landline jangled, jarring her from her dark thoughts. When the story about the retreat broke a few months before, she'd had no choice but to change her personal number. Now, only four people had it, and she knew exactly which one of them was on the other end of the line. She slipped off her glasses and swiped at her eyes with the sleeve of her shirt.

"Hello?"

"Are you okay?" Lindy demanded, concern coloring her usually peppy tone.

"I'm fine. I guess you saw, then."

Lindy sighed. "Owen heard from Gavin last night, but I didn't want to call and wake you. I figured it might be the last time you get to sleep in your own bed for a while."

The silence crackled over the line, but Sarabeth refused to fill it.

"Sar?"

She swallowed hard.

A growl of frustration preceded Lindy's voice blasting over the line. "Damn it, I'm not asking this time. If you don't let us do this, I'm coming there, tossing you into a giant sack, and dragging you back here with me. You can't stay in Chicago. It's not an option anymore." Her friend blew out an exasperated sigh and her tone gentled. "I know this is hard, but you've got to try to look at this from my point of view. You want to call Marcel a fluke? Fine. Liza an odd coincidence? Whatever. But there's no denying it now. The former employees are being picked off one by one. This is happening, girlfriend, and ducking your head in the sand could get you killed."

The dull throbbing between her eyes radiated outward. "I wasn't part of it. I didn't do anything wrong. Maybe —"

"Maybe?" Lindy's tone had gone from exasperated to shrill. "You might be willing to risk your life on a maybe, but I'm not. I only have a handful of friends in this world, and one of them is an eighty-year-old woman, so I'm afraid I can't spare you. Get your bottom in gear. We're getting you out of harm's way."

"I'll think about it," she mumbled.

"Nope, no time for thinking. Throw a suit and some undies in your purse and —"

"Lin, remember we've already agreed? I'm nothing like you."

Silence crackled over the line before her friend responded cautiously. "Sure."

"And that was good because?" Sarabeth prompted.

"There needs to be one sane person between us. I know, but —"

"No buts. I said I'll think about it and I will. I'm not running off half-cocked with my underwear in my purse like some politician's mistress after his wife comes home early from Tahoe."

There was another long pause before Lindy's guilt-laden voice came over the line. "Umkay, but, uh ... while you're thinking about it, you may wanna start packing. Gavin's going to be there soon."

She stifled a groan. Lindy and Owen's friend Gavin McClintock was apparently some sort of security expert they'd been harping on her about since this whole mess had started. They wanted to hire him to protect her, but Sarabeth had flatly refused every time they'd brought it up. When Lindy got her mind set on something, though, she barreled ahead like a miniature steamroller. Sarabeth should've known this was coming.

"When you say 'going to be here' you mean Chicago, or ...?"

"Like at your house. In an hour or so. Owen had him leave first thing this morning."

"Aw, Jesus, Lin." Perfect. A new layer of manure added to her already majorly crappy month.

"At least talk to him," Lindy pleaded. "Listen to what he has to say. For me. Owen says he's the best in the business, and if you let Gavin take care of you, I know everything will work out fine. I can feel it."

Time to concede the battle and look ahead to the war. She'd talk to the guy, but that was as far as it was going. "Fine. But don't get your hopes up. This is a meet and greet only. I'm not going anywhere until I've had a chance to think things through."

"If something happened to you, I'd never forgive myself."

Lindy's voice was filled with regret, and the anger drained out of Sarabeth in a whoosh. Lindy and Owen were responsible for cracking The Healing Place con. The year before, Owen's sister had been bamboozled out of three quarters of a million dollars by Nico, but no charges had stuck. Owen had made it priority number one to prove that Nico was a high-stakes career con man and see him punished to the full extent of the law. When Nico had opened The Healing Place couples retreat, Owen had hired Lindy to act as his wife so they could go undercover and find out if the business was a front for another con. Unbeknownst to Sarabeth, who was the couple's therapist on staff, it was. She and Lindy had met at the retreat and became fast friends. In spite of all the drama that followed, they'd managed to stay that way, and Sarabeth couldn't imagine her life without Lindy now.

"Don't even go there. Just because you guys exposed Nico for the cheat he was doesn't make you responsible for anything that followed. You did the right thing," Sarabeth said.

If only that were true for her, as well.

She'd been so excited about the lucrative and possibly career-making opportunity Nico had presented, she hadn't looked hard enough at the fine print. If she had, she would have known it was too good to be true.

Lindy sighed heavily into the phone. "I know that in my head, but in my heart, I can't help but feel like I'm partly to blame for you being in danger. Please. Keep an open mind. For me. Once you listen to what he has to say, I know you'll see it my way."

She wasn't sold, but agreed to hear the guy out. She and Lindy said their good-byes and she disconnected. There was nothing to do now but wait and see what this Gavin person proposed. She stared at the article on the screen for another long moment before x-ing out. Maybe things would be clearer after she glugged down her coffee and had a shower.

The hot water and caffeine combination did clear her head some, and when she emerged, it was with renewed energy and resolve. Nico had already stolen too much from her. She'd lost the job she never should have taken in the first place, her professional credibility was in the outhouse, and her nights were long and nearly sleepless. No way was she leaving her home and her business — or what was left of it, at any rate — on top of it.

She'd talked to Gavin McClintock on the phone once, after the second murder, and she hadn't appreciated his know-it-all tone or overbearing attitude one bit. If the ex-military thug wanted to follow her around the city, maybe she'd consider it, but she wasn't running away.

That settled, she went about her usual morning routine, preparing to go into the office. These days that entailed little more than shuffling around paper and reading psychology journals, especially on a Saturday, but she needed that routine to anchor her now more than ever.

She quickly donned a tailored pantsuit and coiled her hair into a knot on top of her head. Just as she slicked a layer of nude gloss over her lips, a knock sounded at the door. She peered at her watch with a frown. Twenty minutes early. She hadn't even agreed to this yet, and the man was already disrupting her schedule.

She crossed the room to the entryway and pasted a cool smile on her lips. He'd come a long way, five hours by car, as a favor to a friend. Good manners dictated that she not let him see her frustration. She opened the door with a polite, "Hello."

"Nice digs," he said, crowding into the doorway.

A blast of awareness sucked the breath from her lungs as a big body pressed against hers. She took a step back to give him some more room. He just seemed to take up so much of it. It was like a wall of muscle had planted itself square in the middle of her personal space. A tall one, to boot. She was no slouch at five nine, but he had her by a solid six inches even with her two-inch heels. She craned her neck to meet his annoyed gaze.

"Mr. McClintock?"

"That's me." Firm lips twisted into a semblance of a smile before flattening again. "Now can you tell me why you opened the door and let me in before asking that question?" His hazel eyes were flecked with gold and should have looked warm, but instead they were bleak, like a lone jack pine on a February day. His coal-black hair was nothing more than a suggestion, the crew cut style adding to the severity of his look. He arched his dark brows, clearly awaiting an answer.

Hot anger ignited her vow to be cordial, burning it to a cinder in two seconds flat. She wasn't about to allow this Neanderthal to intimidate her. "Lindy told me you were coming at this time. And unless The Rock is on hiatus from shooting his latest film, I didn't it think it likely that another ludicrously gigantic man in a black leather jacket over a too-tight T-shirt was going to show up at my doorstep at eleven a.m. on a Saturday." She scowled at him. "Honestly, who else would you be?"

He glanced outside the door, left and right, and then closed it behind them, blocking out the unseasonable chill. "It's not eleven yet. I'm early. And I could be a person coming to kill you. You know, like all those other people who worked at that resort with you before they embarked on their new careers pushing up daisies."

He didn't come right out and say "Duh," but his tone definitely implied it, and her cheeks warmed under his scrutiny. He was right. She'd only taken a quick glance out the peephole before swinging the door wide open.

"Of course you're correct," she said stiffly, banking her anger. "I've never been in this position before so this is all new to me. I'll be more careful next time."

"There won't be a next time because you won't be here." He turned without waiting for a response and strode in the direction of the kitchen, seeming to take stock of his surroundings as he went.

She scurried after him, nudging her glasses farther up on her nose. "Where are you going?"

"Into the kitchen so we can talk," he said as he approached the table. He picked up the chair and flipped it backward to straddle it. "Got any coffee made? I've been on the road since five and didn't want to take the time to stop."

Because he'd promised Owen he would get there as quickly as possible to help her. Guilt pricked at her, and she grudgingly went to fill a mug. "I assume you take it black?" she asked, setting it in front of him.

"Why would you assume that?" he asked with a mocking grin. "Cream if you got it, and three sugars."

She narrowed her eyes at him. He probably only drank it that way to throw people off. As she bustled around the kitchen gathering the fixings, she recalled something Lindy had said about him. Supposedly he was originally from Scotland, but most of the brogue must have been forced out along the way. Barely a hint remained in the silky baritone. Probably not enough room for it with all that judgment, she thought with a sniff. She set the cream and sugar at his elbow along with a teaspoon.

"Have a seat," he said.

She bristled at the tone but pulled out a chair and sat. No point in being pissy. She expected she'd have a fight on her hands soon when she told him she wasn't going with him. No reason to expedite it.

"You're a smart lady, so I'm sure you've already put it together, but I'm going to confirm it for you because I get the feeling you don't appreciate the seriousness of the situation. Three people from your former place of work have been killed, and if you're not next, you're pretty damn near it."

She winced but held his matter-of-fact gaze. "I wasn't a part of the grift. I was a legitimate employee of a company I thought was committed to helping couples through a rough time, and I did that to the best of my ability. I was cleared of all charges and released. The people who've been killed were all either under investigation or had already been charged with a crime and were awaiting trial."

"So far," he conceded with a curt nod. "But this could be the tip of the iceberg, and we can't assume that anyone on the payroll is safe. I've been doing security for a long time now, both in the army and in the private sector. Trust me when I tell you this is a high-risk situation."

"Then why aren't the police here offering me protection? Surely if they agreed with your assessment, I'd have been notified," she asked, wrapping her arms around herself to ward off the sudden chill.

"The victims weren't living in the same states, and none of them died the same way. Marcel Renault, hit-and-run. Liza Ingram, aka Shirleen Dennis, death by drowning. They haven't released this info yet, but my source tells me that Nico was shot in a staged burglary. The cops are only connecting the dots now. Whoever's doing this has a long reach and vast resources." A muscle leaped restlessly beneath his hair-stubbled cheekbone. "If you think a couple of nighttime patrolmen driving past your house is going to stop them, I would question whether or not you've spent your morning sniffing glue."

He was scaring her, but it only made her want to burrow even deeper into her cocoon. Now that law enforcement knew the deaths were connected, they would catch the perpetrator and it would be over in no time. Surely, if she kept her head down and kept a careful eye out, she'd be all right. She'd done nothing wrong, and she wasn't about to run off like some sort of criminal. Not when she needed to be here to try to rebuild her business and reputation. Running would only make it look worse than it already did.

She swallowed hard and shook her head. "Be that as it may, I'm not going."

* * *

Gavin flexed his jaw and tried not to let his annoyance come through in his tone. What was that saying about flies and vinegar? He aimed for empathetic. "Listen, Sara. This —"

"Beth," she interjected primly. "My name is Sara beth."

Only steadfast willpower drilled into him at Ranger School kept him from rolling his eyes at her. "Fine," he conceded with a brisk nod, empathy drying up faster than a slug in the Sahara. "Sara beth."

Her full lips were pinched into a determined line, and he nearly groaned. He'd known his share of stubborn women. Hell, he'd even bedded a few. This one took it to new heights. He owed Owen a favor, but begging this fool-headed lass to let him save her life was pushing it. She wanted to stay, no skin off his ass. He'd done his part by driving up and laying the facts out for her.

"This can go one of two ways," he continued, mind made up. "You can come with me, and do as I tell you. In exchange for your cooperation, I will ensure that you end the month without any more holes in you than the ones God gave you to start. Or you can stay here, and I can tell my old buddy Owen that you opted not to take him up on his generous offer. I'm not exaggerating when I say that nothing would make me happier."

Her green eyes narrowed, and she shook her head. "It seems we're in agreement about something, at least. I can think of little I'd want to do less than spend the foreseeable future in your company." Her tone dripped acid as she shoved her chair away from the table and stood. "Now that we've settled that, I need to get to my office."

Dismissed. She'd been borderline polite about it, as her posh breeding clearly dictated, but it was an obvious dismissal nonetheless. He was officially off the hook. He was about to stand, but some nagging sense of responsibility made him press one last time. "You can't go on as if nothing's happening. You do realize that, yes? Can you go away for a while ... leave town?"

She shook her head. "Until I hear from the police, I'm staying put. The other deaths happened weeks apart. There's no reason to believe that, on the off chance I'm viewed as guilty by association in this mess, anything would happen before the authorities have a chance to set up some protection for me if they feel it's necessary." She glanced pointedly at the slim gold watch on her wrist. "I've really got to go now. Shall I see you out?"

He slapped his thighs and rolled to his feet. "That would be great." He picked up the fussy miniature cup she'd set in front of him and drained the contents before setting it down. "And thanks for the coffee."


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Guardian for Hire by Christine Bell, Kerri-Leigh Grady. Copyright © 2014 Christine Bell. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Guardian For Hire (Entangled Indulgence) 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 52 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
## I'm afraid I'm on the fence with this one. I'm sincerely torn. I liked the second half of the book. It's the first half that leaves me perplexed. The hero starts off so unlikeable that it was hard for me to warm up to him. Constantly making fun of the heroine and embarrassing her. And the heroine was so dorky and clumsy, putting her foot in her mouth on more than one occasion. As I was reading I was actually embarrassed for her. Yes, it made for some good comedy, hence the upgrade to 3 stars. However, it was difficult to fathom that he actually falls for her. Good but not great.
Sebella More than 1 year ago
Christine Bell is a totally “new2me” author although I had heard and seen her name making the rounds  on the blogosphere. I really wasn’t looking for another or series to jump into and then I saw this cover that gave me goosebumps and drool mouth, so I was like “Gotta get me some of that…” Oh baby, did I get some! Just kill me now because I could die a happy woman. Guardian for Hire had zero flaws.  Sarabeth started out as a bit of a weenie, but she had some damn good reasons. I fell in girlfriend love with her because she absolutely evolved into a kick ass, my kinda chick, heroine. She was smart, stubborn, and grew to be absolutely fearless. Plus, she had fantabulous taste in men. Trying to put a horrible situation behind her and regain a semblance of a normal life, the past jumps up and she finds herself the target of a hit. Did she give up? Nooooo, after a few bumps, she learns to roll with the punches and learns she is actually a worthy person who deserves love and respect. Gavin, ah, my luscious Gavin of the beefy arms. Well, he is just my every dream come true. Damaged from a troubled childhood, he is obsessed with structure, security and distance. When he first meets Sarabeth, he is pretty sure he has her pegged. When she calls into question his initial assessment and then proceeds to smash all his preconceived notions, he is adorably ill prepared. It was like watching a hockey goalie try to handle a Faberge egg without breaking it. Too cute!  When these two finally get together, Good Lord, Almighty! They set the pages on fire. Christine Bell lays the smackdown on the reader with the sizzle and pop. Gavin lives up to the cover and Sarabeth lets loose her inner wanton. I was equally as pleased that this aspect was built up to the point that the reader is extremely tempted to cheat and move ahead a few chapters just to sneak an illicit peak. The action and suspense were perfectly incorporated to the mix with just enough tension to balance out the heat.   While there was never any chance of not having an HEA, the journey to attainment was fraught with ups, downs, laughter, danger, tears and character growth. You better believe this series has jumped onto my "Must read" radar. Check it out and let me know how right I am.
Nicola_1202 More than 1 year ago
Close your eyes, think of Gerard Butler scaling perimeter fencing and dodging bullets whilst oozing sexy and you're not far off the mark. Guardian for Hire follows on from Wife for Hire and although there is some continuity, it could be read as a standalone. As you may have gathered, our hero, Gavin McClintock, is Scottish. In my world sexy surly protective Scottish brutes are right up there as leading men (I am 1/4 Scottish, it's genetic) and our hot Scot isn't doing a bad job at all in protecting Dr. Sarabeth Lucking from the bad guys. She's scared and stubborn but she's no damsel in distress and underneath is a feisty strong lady who hasn't been allowed to be her real-self in life for fear of disappointing her snotty snobbish Grandparents. It's a romance that is action and sexual tension led and it does take a while before any explosions occur under the covers. Once they do though, the emotional dynamic of the book changes; Gavin and Sarabeth are more similar than they think and I went from liking to loving both them and their story. Well worth reading and the only question left to ask is if Maddy is going to get her story...I think that one could be interesting. I received a copy of this as an ARC from the publisher for and honest and unbiased opinion.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This novel is a great spin off from: Wife For Hire, by the same author. I liked the plot. I think the two books could have been one longer more detailed book. It would have been less forced and more enjoyable. There was far too much graphic sexual content. Simone24
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved the book.
Splashesintobooks1 More than 1 year ago
This is romantic suspense with a fantastic dose of humour thrown in to make it an enjoyable, relatively quick read that I enjoyed escaping into. It is the second in the series but I have to say that, having not read the first, it still works well as background information for events is provided in this story. It does, however, mean that I now know who the perpetrator in the first story was! Doctor Sarabeth Lucking worked as a psychologist at a couple’s retreat before scandal closed it down. Now three other employees there have being murdered and her friends have sent ex-Army Ranger, now security specialist, Gavin McClintock to fetch and protect her. Their first meeting is explosive so, somewhat reluctantly, Sarah goes with Gavin and they start their run to escape the killers. The main problems are they don’t know who they are running from or why they want to kill Sarabeth but to top that, the attraction between the two is hot and mutual. Can they stay safe as they strive to survive? Can they help discover who is trying to kill Sarabeth and why? Can their passion lead to anything more? The story has great characters and has brilliant banter throughout. Sarabeth is keen to be independent but she is also naive in many ways and still seeks the approval and love of her cold grandparents who brought her up. Gavin has overcome his childhood experiences to become a strong, Scottish hero who it is easy to relate to. The story is filled with suspense but is still a fun story with plenty of action and a page turner I thoroughly enjoyed reading. I requested and was given a copy of this book via NetGalley and this is my honest opinion after choosing to read it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a quick read that is definitely worth your time and money!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sarabeth is a refreshing antidote to all those so-called intelligent women who are TSTL. And Gavin is a to-the-bone alpha who, nonetheless, has a real sense of humor. Neither of them is perfect but they stay focused on getting the job done. Sarabeth may fantacize about being a badass, but she knows when to shut up and follow orders. Gavin knows he will never be a hearts-and-flowers romantic, but he can't help unintentionally doing all those small things to show that he really does care about her feelings. Not a 5 star, because it really is formulaic, but the action is non-stop and and fast, the plot has only a few "Oh really?" moments, and it was nice to catch up with old characters and meet a new one who needs her own story (Maddy, of course!). Because I'm a bwitch, I'd have loved to see the grandparents get their just desserts. Altogetber, a solid 4 stars.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed both books in this series. The characters are well developed with real emotions and humor. Lots of action to keep your attention.
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starznstripes24 More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this read. I did not read book 1 as I didn't realize this was book 2. It wasn't missing any major information and was easily read as a stand alone. Sarabeth's life is in danger and her friends enlist Gavin to protect her and keep her safe. Gavin and Sarabeth do not get along and are from 2 different worlds. As she is ushering him out of her house declining his protection, an attempt is made on her life and she willingly agrees to his services. The sexual tension between these two was not as blatently obvious as I've read in other books, but it is there. Neither thinks the other is interested or could be based on their own individual backgrounds. I loved the story and their back and forth banter, the teasing and levity to releive stressful situations. This was well written and I'm glad that I picked it up.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed reading Sarabeth and Gavin's story. I liked seeing Owen and Lindy again. I liked how these two connected and how Sarabeth found what she was looking for in life.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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MyBookAddictionandMore More than 1 year ago
GUARDIAN FOR HIRE by Christine Bell is a fast paced New Adult Romance. #2 in the "For Hire" series, but can be read as a stand alone. A fast paced, smoky hot romance filled with did I mention smoky hot chemistry, scandal, danger, a bit of mystery, a touch of humor and lots of passion. Follow Gavin McClintock and Sarabeth Lucking as they navigate though their smoked filled passion, and laugh out loud moments. A great read from beginning to end. What happens when you mix a smoky hot, bad butt Scottish ex-Army/ Security expert with a sassy, smart, sexy therapist, why you get "Guardian For Hire". This was my first story by this author but it will not be my last. Loved it! Can hardly wait for the next installment in the "For Hire" series. Received for an honest review from the publicist and/or author. RATING: 4.5 HEAT RATING: HOT REVIEWED BY: AprilR, Courtesy of My Book Addiction and More
Anonymous More than 1 year ago