The ex-marine spoke with confidence and steely determination, but all Renny Bennett saw in his new bodyguard was a petite, doe-eyed nymph. Sabrina Dedune's feisty, take-no-prisoners attitude proved she took her job seriously. But suddenly the gorgeous body under that T-shirt seemed far more dangerous than any threat on his life.
Sabrina was good at her job, but this talented sculptor and his erotic works of art left her reeling. Staying focused was hard when her body ached to taste all Renny had to offer. But after one searing kiss, she was guarding more than his body. Now her heart was at risk.
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Renny had a death grip on his temper. Of all the Bennett children he had the shortest fuse. In the past few months he'd been trying really hard to prove his brothers and father wrong, that he could make intelligent decisions without first overreacting. But glancing again at this tiny womanshe couldn't be any more than five feet three inches and one-twenty soaking wetwith serious dark eyes and hair pulled back into a simple ponytail, he felt his resolve slipping.
How in the hell did they expect him to take the news that she was his new bodyguard seriously?
She didn't look capable of buying herself a drink without identification, let alone protecting him from some psychopath killer!
Through clenched teeth he managed a smile and extended his hand to clasp the one she'd held out to him. "I'm Renny Bennett. It's a pleasure to meet you, Ms. Desdune," he murmured, because his mother had been a stickler for manners.
Bree hadn't missed iteven though he'd tried valiantly to hide his irritation, she'd seen the spark in his brown eyes and almost winced with its fierceness. He wasn't dressed in designer suits like the three other Bennett men in the room. No, this one was so sure of his good looks, he'd opted for crisp new blue jeans and a navy button-down shirt. His boots looked sturdy, Timberland, she thought with a shrug, the same ones Lynn had just purchased for her nephew, Jeremy.
She was an excellent judge of character. Her mother said this was her sixth sense inherited from her Creole grandmother, Ruby, on Daddy's side. Bree didn't care who it came from, it was a great tool and she had used it all her life. Now she used it to tell the true feelings of Mr. Bennett. He was thinking that this little woman couldn't possibly be a threat to anyone, so how was she supposed to protect him? She had to admit, the Bennett men did soar over her at more than six feet, but then she'd always been the shortest one in the bunch. It never stopped her from taking either one of her brothers down, nor had it stopped her from graduating tops in her basic training class when she'd enlisted in the marines.
So regardless of how Renny Bennett glowered down at her through his fake smile and brilliant white teeth, she had his number, loud and clear. "You can call me Sabrina." She tossed him a big ole fake smile of her own and clasped his hand.
Both their eyes shot open at the contact, twin bolts of heat traveling quickly through their limbs.
Sabrina pulled away first.
Renny continued to stare, dumbfounded and looking silly, his empty hand still outstretched.
"Ah, Renny, I assure you that Sabrina is very capable. As you are the only one of the Bennett men not directly involved in the business, it's most likely you're not the target. Still, I'd like to keep a close watch on you just in case," Sam said, moving closer to Bree.
"I'm sure that Ms. Desdune is good at what she does." He doubted that very seriously; she was a woman, for goodness' sake. Why on earth her brother was letting her run around playing cops and robbers was beyond him, but that was not his concern. "I simply don't think I need any protection."
"That's what they all say." Bree couldn't help it; the words were out before she'd had a chance to consider the company they were in. A quick glance to her right and she saw Sam's frown. She'd promised him she'd be on her best behavior, that she'd complete this assignment without any mishaps. The Bennetts were very wealthy and very influential in the Greenwich community. Their charity work and financial contributions around the state were well-known and much appreciated. Besides that, Sam needed this job. His security company had only been open for two years and he was making a steady amount of money, but he was getting married in six months to Leeza PurdyConnecticut's very own Paris Hilton. But that was another story for another day.
Behind her she heard a snicker. Renny Bennett glowered over her shoulder, then lowered his eyes to her again.
Sam glowered at her, then turned his attention to their new client. "What she means is that most of our clients that receive personal attention are against it, but your father has hired me to do a job and I would not be doing that job if I didn't cover all the bases."
A muscle in Renny's jaw twitched and Bree found herself staring at his face, the finely chiseled features, strong jaw, dark bronze skin, dark eyes and thin beard and mustache giving him an air of danger. She remembered that one of his parents was Brazilian, the mother, if she wasn't mistaken. That would explain the exotic look all the Bennett sons had. They were certainly a triplet of beautiful men. When she made her way to his eyes again she realized with a start that he was staring at her as intently as she'd been staring at him. She cleared her throat and stood a little straighter, her mouth suddenly going dry. "Mr. Bennett, I can assure you that I'll guard your body as if it were my own." The moment the words were out she knew they were an even bigger mistake than her previous comment.
Sam grabbed her by the arm. "Yes, Mr. Bennett, Desdune Security will take very good care of your family. Now, if you'll excuse us we'd like to get a better look at the grounds to decide what other precautions we need to take here at the house." He pulled her to the door, barely masking his anger.
"Taunting the client is not good business, Bree," Sam scolded when they were well down the hall from the dining room.
Bree had already pulled away from his bullying grasp and was checking the locks on the windows in the living room as Sam spoke. "I wasn't taunting him. He was the one looking down his nose at me, a mere woman assigned to guard his body." And what a wonderful body that was, she thought surprisingly. "These windows are the pits." She stood back and looked at the almost floor-to-ceiling windows and held in a sigh. "Besides giving you a breathtaking view of the landscape, they aren't the best safety choice. I think we should line the entire house with a new alarm system. Possibly some motion sensors since they seem to have a lot of valuables in here."
Sam wanted to be mad at her; he wanted to continue to drill into her head the importance of this job, but he just couldn't. Bree was his baby sister. Not only that, she was his fraternal twin. They were as close as two people could possibly be and he loved her with all his being. But she could be a stubborn pain in the ass when she felt like it. Still, she was smart and good at what she did. She'd studied weaponry and hand-to-hand combat in her sixteen-year stint with the Marine Corps. Despite her small frame and wispy appearance she could beat the hell out of you without batting an eyehe'd seen it done.
He moved through the elegantly decorated room and had to agree with her. The windows were gorgeous, but wouldn't protect the Bennetts from an intruder. He pulled his notebook out of his back pocket and scribbled down some notes. "Yeah, that's a good idea. I think a security gate to get on the property would be good, too. I can't believe they have this huge estate and never thought to have one installed."
Bree chuckled. "We live in Greenwich, Connecticut, Sam. Who the hell needs security out here? We're only a step away from Smallville."
Sam couldn't help but laugh with her. Bree always hated Greenwich. Her spirit and energy fit New York or L.A. much better. That had him wondering again why she'd come back. "Actually, we're only a step down from Beverly Hills, which has its share of crime and danger. Now, I've already bugged the office phones. Mr. Bennett's direct line and the lines of Alex and Rico, as well. I doubt any calls will come in through the other staff. We need to come back and set up the lines here in the house and we need to do each of the private home phones, as well."
He looked over at Bree, who had paused at the mantel looking at the family portraits. "Are you writing any of this down, Bree?"
She didn't wince, didn't even turn before replying. "Nope."
He let out a deep breath. "And why not?"
She tapped her temple as she turned toward him. "I've got it all up here." She gave him that award-winning smile. That smile that made whatever else you were thinking fly right out of your mind.
Sam shook his head. He felt sorry for the man that fell for Sabrina Desdune.
"That's some bodyguard you've got there, little brother." Alex moved to the minibar and poured himself a drink, still grinning after what had just happened.
"I don't need a bodyguard." Renny moved to the window, looked out at the cloudy October sky. "This whole thing is ridiculous. Just call the police and let them handle it. That's what they get paid for."
Rico sat down at the table, opening a file and poring over its contents. "It's too delicate a situation for that. If word gets out that we're being stalked the publicity alone will be a nightmare. Not to mention our stockholders who'll probably get jumpy and start selling off stock. We're going about this the right way and you'll just have to deal with it."
Renny jammed his hands into his pockets. He hated when Rico talked in that highly professional, full-of-crap tone. He'd learned it from his father and now did it more often than not. Renny missed their teenage years when they'd talked like normal boys about sports and girls and everything in between. He knew he was the outcast because he hadn't gone into the family business, because he'd rather wear jeans and tennis shoes than a Brooks Brothers suit and tie. But they were still brothers.
"It was only two notes, Rico. It's not as if the house was broken into or a threat was made on our lives. Two little notes that said basically nothing." He frowned and continued to stare outside. He'd much rather be in his studio or on his deck drawing whatever came to mind. Being cooped up in this big house was stifling.
Alex jumped in, now over his petty laughter. "They said something, Renny. And we can't ignore it."
"Oh, I'm sorry I didn't realize you were finished with your joke of the day." Renny turned to face his oldest brother. They were almost the same build but Alex was about two inches taller. Alex wore a suit, like he normally did, but he didn't look suffocated by it like Renny usually did. He looked distinguished and professional. Renny admitted that he was proud of his brothers. Even though Rico was a little obsessed, he was glad they'd made their spot in the world. And now Renny was making his own.
He admitted this was a bad time for him, as well. He didn't need any bad press, didn't need the threat of some lunatic stalker hanging over his head. His gallery was opening in three weeks; his first solo show would be on display. He did not have time for this stalker or that woman.
"No, I still think that feisty little nymph was funny as hell. But I agree with Rico that we need to take this very seriously. Dad is obviously worried that this is a viable threat, so we should be, as well." Alex took a drink from his glass. "I would like to commend Rico for hiring Desdune Security. They have a good reputation for getting the job done. And I think your guard in particular is going to do a magnificent job on you."
"She's not hired to do a job on me. Hell, I don't know what she's supposed to do." Renny hadn't missed Alex's implications. Of the three Bennett men, Renny was the most reckless when it came to women. Because he was so absorbed in his work he didn't give them any more time than was absolutely necessary. The problem was, with his good looks and obvious colored backgroundgreen for moneywomen were always practically throwing themselves at him. He took from the bounty when the mood struck him and when it didn't, he ignored them.
Sabrina Desdune, however, would not be easy to ignore.
She was tiny, yes, he'd give her that. Yet she possessed something he'd never seen in the women in his lifeconfi-dence. He'd bet half his trust fund that Sabrina Desdune knew exactly who she was and what she wanted out of life. Now, whether or not that should concern him, he wasn't quite sure. What he was sure of, where she was concerned, was that she was damned beautiful. Despite her attempts to downplay her good looks, a blind man could see them. Skin the color of cocoa, a pert little mouth with full lips, high cheekbones and eyes so deep, so moving, you could sink right into her soul. And that body any woman that wore jeans and a T-shirt like that had his vote every time.
Still, he did not need a bodyguard.
"She's supposed to keep you alive. It's as simple as that so don't get any other sordid ideas about her," Rico chided.
"I think it's too late for that, Rico. Didn't you see the sparks flying between those two? I'll bet he has her in his bed by the end of the week." Alex guffawed.
"I will not!" Renny said adamantly.
"He'd better not!" Rico added. "This is serious, Renny. Now, I know you don't care much about Bennett Industries, but this attack is personal. Dad has made quite a few enemies in his time and now it appears one has gotten bold enough to come after his family. You'd do well to watch your ass this time instead of that woman's."
Renny was instantly offended. "Now, wait one minute. Bennett Industries is just as important to me as it is to either of you. Just because I choose not to work there doesn't mean I don't care. I know how important it is to Dad and to the two of you. And I see how worried these notes have Dad and Mom, for that matter. That's the only reason I agreed to come here and meet with these security people in the first place. But I don't see either one of you being assigned a girl to guard you."