Brianna Waverly had barely escaped death once. So she had little choice but to accept the protection of former navy SEAL Troy Sinclair. Spirited away to a tiny cabin, her safe house was as far removed from her heiress lifestyle as she could imagine. And her bodyguard so much more exciting than any man she'd ever known.
Troy wasn't pleased to be playing house when danger lurked behind every door. Especially when the woman he had to protect was proving impossible to resist. But emotion was an entanglement he couldn't afford because the ultimate price would be their lives.
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"I want you to repossess my daughter."
Troy Sinclair stared at the man who had uttered the words, wondering if Brandon Waverly had lost his mind. "Excuse me?"
Brandon leaned back in the overstuffed chair at the huge mahogany desk. Behind him the wall was decorated with framed photos of him with the mayor of Kansas City and other dignitaries, not only locally but also nationally known.
Brandon Waverly was a wealthy, successful real estate developer and builder in the Kansas City area and a close friend of Troy's father, but at the moment none of that mattered to Troy as he wondered just when Brandon had gone crazy.
"Sir, Recovery Inc. isn't into repossessing people," Troy began, then paused as Brandon waved a hand to stop him from whatever he had been about to say.
"I know your company gets back boats and planes and whatever else people decide not to pay for, but I also know there are times when you aren't exactly orthodox in your business practices and you go above and beyond for a worthy cause. My daughter is a worthy cause."
Brandon leaned forward, his blue eyes filled with a torment Troy couldn't begin to understand. "Perhaps I used the wrong word. What I want you to do is take my daughter someplace safe for a couple of days."
"And why would I want to do that, sir?" There was no question that Troy was intrigued even though he didn't want to be. Troy had only met Brianna Waverly once, when he'd been fifteen years old and she'd been ten.
He remembered little about her other than she'd been a pretty little girl with big blue eyes and pale blond hair, but now everyone "knew" of Bree Waverly, Hollywood party girl and a favorite target of the paparazzi.
Troy had no desire to have anything to do with Brianna Waverly, no matter what the circumstances. Still, he would give Brandon the respect of letting the man finish what he had to say.
"As you might know, I'm in the middle of a huge project," Brandon explained. "I'm developing a new mini-mall on some property north of town. Unfortunately not everyone has been happy to see it going in. We've just started construction, and we've already had some vandalism and threats from people who don't want to see retail stores in the middle of farmland.
"There's a meeting planned for Wednesday night, a meeting at which I hope we're going to mend some fences. I'm offering some concessions to the residents that I hope will move things forward, but in the meantime it all has suddenly gotten particularly ugly."
He opened the top drawer of his desk and pulled out a manila envelope. "I received this at my home this morning." His thick fingers shoved the envelope toward Troy. "Go on, open it."
Reluctantly Troy unfastened the flap and pulled out the contents. There were a total of five photos cut from a popular tabloid. Each depicted the lovely Brianna Waverly doing what wealthy heiresses do bestgoing into a popular club, getting out of a limo, sipping a cocktail and sticking out her tongue at a photographer.
The only thing remarkable about the photos was the stunning beauty of the woman and the bright red, angry X slashed through each one. There was no doubt that the pictures were intended as some sort of threat.
The photo captions were as provocative as the woman. MIDWEST HEIRESS DRINKS UNTIL DAWN. BEAUTIFUL BREE AND HER BODYGUARD. WAVERLY HEIRESS WALKS THE WILD SIDE.
Troy felt a sinking sensation in the pit of his stomach. "Isn't your daughter in California? That's a long way from your problems here."
Brandon pulled yet another tabloid from his top
drawer. Troy stared at the headline. BEAUTIFUL BREE ATTACKED, BODYGUARD STABBED.
"This happened two nights ago at a club called Oscar's. Curt, Brianna's bodyguard, was stabbed but the intended victim was Brianna. He's still in the hospital and doing just fine. Meanwhile Brianna is arriving here in town this afternoon for a two-week visit," Brandon replied with a frown. "I'm afraid somebody went after her to get to me, and I'm worried about her being here unprotected. Please, Troy. I'm begging you as a friend of your father's, as one ex-Navy brother to another."
Troy sighed. He didn't want to do this, but he knew he was going to, because Brandon was an old family friend and because he'd served his country with distinction years ago as a Navy seaman. As an ex-Navy SEAL, Troy couldn't turn his back on the man.
"How exactly is this going to work?" he finally asked, ignoring the gut instinct that told him he was about to make a huge mistake.
The meeting lasted for another hour, then Troy left the downtown Waverly offices and headed to the north side of town where his company, Recovery Inc., was located.
The early September air still held the heat of summer, but he scarcely noticed the temperature as his head whirled with everything Brandon had asked of him. Brandon Waverly hadn't lost his mind, but obviously Troy had when he'd agreed to be a part of the madness.
The Recovery Inc. office was housed in a strip mall, flanked by a pizza place on one side and a beauty shop on the other.
Boredom, he thought as he drove. That's part of what had driven him to agree. Business had been slow the last month after some bad publicity had been generated from a mess his partner, Micah Stone, had gotten into. The mess had been cleaned up, and Micah had found the love of his life, but the residual effect had been that things had been far too quiet the last couple of weeks.
He thought of the photos he'd just seen of Brianna Waverly. There was no question that she was beautiful, but she reminded him of somebody from his past and those memories were ones he rarely visited because they hurt too much.
If he was lucky, one of his partners would talk him into calling Brandon and telling him he'd changed his mind. He parked in front of the business, a surge of pride swelling in his chest as he saw the discreet sign that read Recovery Inc.
Three years ago when he and two of his Navy SEAL buddies had opened the business, they'd never dreamed of how successful they'd become. For Troy the success was particularly welcome because he'd done it on his own, without his family money.
As he entered the office he found Micah and Lucas in their usual placesLucas sprawled on the tasteful sofa, and Micah reared back in the chair at his desk.
"I see you're both hard at work," he said dryly.
Lucas sat up and stretched with arms overhead, the motion tugging his T-shirt up to expose his flat, tanned abdomen. "I might look like I'm half-asleep, but actually my mind is whirling to solve all the world's problems."
Micah snorted. "Yeah, and occasionally for the last hour or so, I've actually heard the snoring sounds his mind makes when it works."
Troy grinned and walked across the room to his desk. "I just left Brandon Waverly's office, and he has a job for me," he said.
"I hope it's something exciting," Lucas replied.
"It's a one-man job. He wants me to take his daughter, Brianna, and put her someplace safe for a couple of days."
Micah frowned. "Brianna Waverly. Isn't that Bree Waverly?"
Troy nodded and Lucas released a low whistle. "That is one hot woman."
"Yeah, if shallow and plastic is your type," Troy replied. He told them everything that Brandon had said and about the clippings the man had received earlier that morning.
"How does he know it isn't some garden-variety California freak who sent the clippings and tried to get to her in the club?" Micah asked. "Any creep might have developed some kind of fixation on Bree Waverly. It happens all the time in Hollyweird."
"Brandon seems fairly certain that the threats are directed at him because of the shopping mall project he's involved with at the moment." Troy leaned back in his chair, wishing one of them would tell him the whole idea was stupid. "But he thinks they'll try to hurt his daughter to get at him."
"There's always the safe house," Micah suggested. "You could take her there." The safe house was a farmhouse north of the city proper that the company owned to be used for just these kinds of jobs.
"Or if you want to get her out of town, I've got that little fishing cabin south of here. It would be a perfect place to stash her for a few days," Lucas said. "I haven't been there this year so the windows are boarded up and it's probably dusty as hell. You know it's close quarters, and it's sure nothing fancy."
That was an understatement. In truth the cabin was downright rustic. A woman like Bree Waverly, who was accustomed to the finest things and the world revolving around her axis, would probably take one look around and break out in hives.
Troy wasn't sure why that particular thought gave him a bit of pleasure.
Lucas shrugged. "Compared to some of the jobs we've had, this sounds easy enough. All he's asking of you is that you be a glorified babysitter for a couple of days."
Lucas was right. It sounded easy enough. So why were all of Troy's instincts screaming at him to run as far away as fast as possible from this particular job?
Brianna Waverly was happy to be home. Even though she'd lived in Hollywood for the past six years, Kansas City, Missouri, was the place she thought of as home, and after the events of the last couple of days, she was even happier to be here.
There were times when it was hard for her to believe that the daughter of a Kansas City developer had become a "name" in Hollywood. All it had taken was her showing up at some of the hot spots and catching the eyes of several paparazzi. Suddenly her pictures had been in the tabloids and the girl from Kansas City was a star.
She stood in front of the full-length mirror in her childhood bedroom to check her appearance one last time before going downstairs for dinner.
She would have preferred a quiet evening spent with just her father and her stepmother, Heather. But the minute Brianna had walked through the front door, Heather had informed her that Brianna's father had invited a business associate to join them for dinner.
Tucking a strand of her long, straight blond hair behind her ear, she turned away from the mirror. She'd been hoping to have a little time alone with her dad this evening to tell him of the life-altering decision she'd made, but as she looked at the clock on the nightstand she realized she'd probably have to wait until the next day for the heart-to-heart chat.
She smoothed a hand down the front of the designer dress she'd bought the day before and thrown into her suitcase at the last minute. The little black number was sinfully short and fit her slender curves as if it had been designed specifically for her. The label would impress Heather, and Brianna's father would predictably ask what animal had eaten the lower half of her skirt.
Knowing that it was getting close to mealtime, she left her bedroom and went downstairs to search for Heather. She found the attractive redhead seated in the formal living room sipping a glass of wine.
"There you are," she said as Brianna entered the room. "Your father is upstairs changing for dinner, and I'm expecting Troy to show up any moment. Nice dress."
"Thanks. Troy?" Brianna walked over to the bar and poured herself a glass of the wine that Heather had opened.
"Troy Sinclair, Grace and Lyle's son," Heather replied.
Brianna sank down on the love seat opposite Heather. "Troy Sinclair. I haven't seen him since I was a kid." She hadn't seen him in years, but she remembered him. At ten years old she'd had a huge crush on the boy with the blond hair and the gunmetal-gray eyes. "He's working for Dad now?"
Heather shrugged her bone-thin shoulders. "I guess so. You know I don't pay any attention to your father's wheeling and dealing. Now, tell me all about what's going on in your life."
Her mother had died when Brianna was ten, and her father had married Heather eight years ago. Brianna had just turned twenty-one; Heather had been thirty.
It had been Heather who had encouraged Brianna to head to California and enjoy her youth, beauty and financial freedom while she could. Heather loved the gossip magazines, and in a bid to please the woman who was now her father's wife, a young and naive Brianna had left Kansas City with the goal of becoming one of the women her stepmother seemed to admire.
It had only been in the last couple of years that Brianna had recognized that her stepmother might have had an ulterior motive for urging Brianna out of the nest and halfway across the country. With Brianna gone, Heather could have her husband's attention all to herself.
The two had only been talking a few minutes when Brandon swept into the room. "There she is!" He held out his arms to Brianna, who instantly jumped up to greet him.
Hugging her father had always been as comforting as hugging her favorite teddy bear, and this time was no different. He wrapped her up and gave her a smacking kiss on the forehead, then released her.