She'll lead him right into temptation...
Lately, things have been a little weird for Sloane Barrett—late night crank calls, disturbing images inher inbox, her tires slashed. She tries not to let it bother her. She tries to pretend everything is ok. Then someone breaks into her house and attacks her...and Sloane realizes she needs professional help. Tall, gorgeous and overwhelmingly intense help.
But Sloane knows all too well just how much trouble intense guys can be.
Security Specialist Ciaran Ross's priority is to ensure Sloane is safe. His gut tells him she's in danger, but his feelings for her are pulling his focus. Ciaran has already made the mistake of falling for a client, and the results were disastrous. He won't risk it again. He can't. But running from love is the surest way to get Sloane killed...
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A Guarding Her Body Novel
By Naima Simone, Tracy Montoya
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2015 Naima Simone
All rights reserved.
"Maybe if you weren't such a fat bitch and got laid more, you wouldn't be so uptight."
The vicious words played in Sloane Barrett's head on a relentless, taunting loop.
Fat bitch ... laid more ... uptight ... Fatbitch ... laidmore ... uptight ... Fatbitchlaidmoreuptight ...
She tightened her grip on her clutch purse while heat coursed up her neck and poured over her face, combatting the cool air of the August evening. Like I care what a smug, spoiled brat like Drake Morriston thinks of me, or calls me. She shouldn't. He was an eighteen-year-old toddler with more money than sense or morals. He was destined to end up as one of the FBI's Most Wanted on the lam in some European country with his indulgent parents footing the bill. So no, she shouldn't care if some future dissolute criminal called her fat or a bitch ...
But damn it, the little rat bastard had hurt her feelings.
Like a ghostly specter refusing to be exorcised, the humiliation from Drake's voice rushed over her again before she could stem the tide. The entitlement. The condescension. The insults. She would love to say the message had been abnormal, but, unfortunately, she couldn't. As a teacher at the prestigious and very elite Kennedy-Lewis Preparatory Academy, a prep school that catered to the children of Massachusetts's obscenely wealthy, she was viewed as more of a servant than a degree-holding, professional educator. That she hailed from the same background as most of her students didn't matter a damn. Not when she — gasp — worked for a living.
She snorted as she tugged open the glass door to the Boston Harbor Walk restaurant. The disrespectful punk should count his blessings he hadn't been in front of her when she received his nasty voicemail. With her five-feet, ten-inch — over six feet in heels — one hundred fifty-five-pound frame, she could've taken him.
All this because she refused to change his grade from the D in her government class that he rightly deserved after she'd caught him cheating on the final. Apparently, Harvard — and his parents — frowned on the low mark marring his transcripts. The principal would probably end up changing the grade anyway. Not that it mattered to Drake or his parents. They wanted her head.
She sighed. Sometimes she couldn't help but wonder just what the hell she was doing with her life. When she'd proudly received her degree in education, babysitting trust-fund teens with pathological tendencies hadn't been in the plans.
Dammit. She so didn't need this harassment on top of the other things going on in her life.
First the eerie hang-ups in the middle of the night. Then the disturbing emails. And earlier this evening, the flat tires. If Mr. Hall, the geometry teacher, hadn't been leaving the school at the same time as she had, she would've had to call a tow truck and been late to Fallon's engagement party. Her Boston society parents had taught her manners, perfect etiquette, and how to plan and host a dinner party, but not the particulars of changing a tire.
God. What a shitty three weeks.
As if to underscore her summation, her cell phone chimed, signaling a new email. Her feet stumbled to a halt as her heart stuttered before free-falling toward her stomach. Nausea coiled in her stomach, tightening like a boa constrictor.
I'm not going to look. Ignore it. The command whispered through her head. Even as she fished the phone from the pocket of her wide skirt and swiped her thumb over the screen. Dread curdled inside her like milk left out on the counter too long. Because a part of her knew what awaited her in her inbox.
Stop being so melodramatic. It could be an email from her principal about the upcoming school year. It could be Facebook spam from a Montana rancher telling her in broken English how they were spiritual soulmates. It could be —
Yourenext@yahoo.com. No subject line. Just like the others.
Bile raced up within her, scalding the back of her throat before she convulsively swallowed the acid back down. The phone shook in her trembling hand. She knew what awaited her even as her thumb hovered over the ominous email address. Terror and disgust congealed in her belly. But she opened the mail. She had to. Otherwise it would just sit there like a bomb waiting to explode.
No words greeted her.
But the picture quickly filling up the screen of her phone didn't need a menacing message. In this case the picture wasn't just worth a thousand words, but a damn book.
Death. Pain. Horror.
The tortured expression and glassy stare in the unnaturally pale face of the woman. The broken body lying on the dark, grimy ground of a shadowed alley, the large green dumpster, the woman's only companion. The necklace of bruises around her neck.
A different woman in each email. But the same gruesome image of death.
The same warning in the email address: you're next.
She powered down her cell with a jerky, abrupt motion and shoved it back into her pocket.
Not tonight. Whoever this, this sicko was who had been sending her these messages would not shake her. They wouldn't win.
Hand still trembling, she pulled open the restaurant door and stepped inside. She briefly closed her eyes as the cool, air-conditioned air drifted over her face, clammy skin, still-boiling temper, and wounded pride. The low murmur of voices greeted her in the nearly empty lobby of the bar and bistro, the delicious scents of Italian spices and grilling seafood teasing her nostrils. She forced her lips into what she hoped passed as a polite smile as a hostess approached her.
Hell, who was she kidding? Neither Drake Morriston, the emails, nor tires could claim full blame for her foul mood.
Walking into an engagement party and toasting the happy couple when Phillip Rison, her ex-fiancé, graced the pages of Boston's social columns with a new girlfriend on his arm — well, yeah. That definitely accounted for the other half of her self-pity funk.
Thomas Edison, inventor of the light bulb, was afraid of the dark.
The useless bit of trivia popped into her head, and she inhaled a calming breath. Hey, some people used martinis or chocolate to soothe their nerves; she memorized obscure facts.
And the trivia kept more inches off her size-fourteen hips and ass than the chocolate did.
"Sloane," an excited voice called out her name as soon as she entered the beautifully decorated main room of the restaurant. "Get your gorgeous ass over here! I'm so glad you could make it tonight."
Fallon Wayland, the bride-to-be, sailed across the room, throwing her arms around Sloane, and squeezing her in a tight hug. Grinning, Sloane returned her old college friend's exuberant greeting and embrace with equal enthusiasm.
"You look beautiful," Sloane said once Fallon released her. And it was nothing short of the truth. Fallon, with her wild curls, golden skin, and startling gray eyes, had always been a striking woman. But with love settling over her like an honest-to-God glow exclusive to mind-shattering orgasms and pregnancy, Fallon was even more beautiful.
Sloane had never experienced either.
"Aw, go on." Fallon waved a hand. With a wicked twinkle lighting her gaze, she leaned forward and stage-whispered, "It's all the fantastic sex."
Fallon cackled and, looping her arm through Sloane's, led her toward a table with a big, silver fountain. Reaching past the flutes of golden champagne, Fallon grabbed a Sam Adams Rebel Rider. Sloane grinned. Fallon definitely knew her.
"Here." Fallon pressed the bottle into Sloane's hand. "Drink up. I was a little worried you wouldn't be able to make it. You're preparing for the new school year, right?"
"Yes. I was at the school today getting some things ready for the parent-student open house tomorrow evening." An image of the email as well as her tires flashed in her head. The ugly slashes had been too long and clean for a nail or a blowout. An unsettling twist clenched her stomach. A knife — a very sharp blade — could've caused the slices, though ...
Shoving the disquieting thought aside, she pasted a smile on her face, determined to concentrate on her friend's happiness. "Where's your future husband?"
She'd met Shane Roarke a couple of times. Though the security specialist had a reserve about him that could be faintly intimidating, the aloofness melted like chocolate left out in the sun whenever he so much as glanced at Fallon. If witnessing the obvious adoration between the pair caused a there-and-gone pang of envy to reverberate in her chest, well ...hey. It didn't lessen Sloane's happiness for them.
"He had to tie something up at the office, but he's on his way." Several more people entered the room, and Fallon laid a hand on Sloane's forearm. "Excuse me for a moment. Enjoy the booze, and the hors d'oeuvres are being circled around, okay?" With a squeeze to Sloane's arm, Fallon glided across the room to greet her guests, leaving Sloane feeling oddly bereft and alone. Sighing, she twisted the cap off the beer and tried to ignore the voice echoing in her head that sounded too much like her mother. Guzzling from a bottle is so common, Sloane. A man wants a lady, not a drinking buddy.
She snorted. According to her proper, socialite mother, just one more thing to add to the list of why Sloane wasn't proper marriage material. Chalk it down right next to can't wear knit dresses without Spanx, has too many opinions, and boring in bed. Well, the last complaint was courtesy of her ex-fiancé.
Maintaining the polite, impersonal smile her mother had drilled into her from birth, she strolled over to the large French doors along the far wall. Beyond the doors and the restaurant's terrace, the dark waters of Boston Harbor rippled gently in the deepening evening. Farther out, lights on a cruise ship flickered and glowed, and she could just imagine the laughter and chatter flowing as freely as the wine. Like here. A time of celebration and happiness. And it all intensified her sense of isolation and loneliness.
Like a perfect storm, everything — the troubling events of the last three weeks, Phillip's new relationship just two months after their disastrous break-up, Fallon's engagement — seemed to converge at once, reminding her she was like that cruise ship on the harbor. Bright and gay on the outside, but at its core alone and circling pointlessly with no purposeful destination.
Well, damn. Apparently she needed to stop DVRing The Young and the Restless because she was becoming way too melodramatic.
Shaking her head, she tossed the cap into a nearby trashcan. The bottle was halfway to her lips before she felt it.
Not like the expectant or bored gazes of her students. Or the avaricious, gleeful scrutiny of her peers as they watched her for any sign of blood at Phillip's defection.
No, this was ... intense. Unsettling. Hot.
Turning from the serene view, she scanned the room.
And collided with eyes the color of a cloudless, beautiful summer sky.
Flawless. Absolutely flawless. Like Michelangelo's David-meets-the-last-guy-who-played-Superman flawless. Dark, thick eyebrows emphasized the brilliance of his blue gaze. Elegant but sharp angles prevented his masculine beauty from edging into pretty, while a wide, sinfully curved mouth obliterated any notion of sweetness. Black loose waves and curls brushed his cheekbones, ears, and the collar of his black suit jacket. A black jacket clung perfectly to his wide shoulders and muscled arms like a shameless slut. With that hard body, he must work in construction or some other profession that required strength and muscles capable of shaming Vin Diesel into picking up his dumbbells and going home.
She dragged her greedy inspection back up his tall frame in time to catch that electric stare skim down her face and throat and loiter on her breasts. Unconsciously she sucked in her gut, praying that sometime between this morning's glance in the mirror and now a miracle had occurred and God had granted her abs tight enough to bounce a quarter off of.
After another visual caress that left her flesh tingling and heavy beneath her dress, he returned his attention upward. The heat in his eyes blasted her like a furnace dialed up to incinerate. She blinked. Surely, that flash of desire had been a figment of her overactive and undersexed imagination. A man who exuded sex and sin like a high-priced cologne wouldn't give her a second glance much less a long, lingering one.
A pregnant goldfish is called a twit.
The obscure trivia whispered through her mind, and she grasped on to the calming mechanism like a lifeline. She lifted her bottle and gulped from it, averting her gaze. His wasn't the first gorgeous face she'd ever seen — hell, she'd been raised in a world where beauty was a commodity. But none of those men had almost ... smoldered with raw sexuality. A sexuality that seemed to be barely leashed by golden skin and steely control. Against her brain's sharp commands, she shot him a furtive glance. None of those aforementioned men looked like they could break a woman apart piece-by-piece with pleasure then calmly put her back together. Only to do it again ...
A tall, whipcord-lean man with shoulder-length, dark brown hair approached the stranger, claiming his attention. She exhaled, as if granted a reprieve.
And like any intelligent person presented with an unexpected escape route, she ran.
Pushing down the handle on the French door, she emerged onto the covered terrace. The gentle breeze off the waterfront caressed and cooled her flushed skin. Around her, the wait staff bustled, lighting hurricane lamps suspended from wooden beams as well as on the tables to dispel the deepening shadows of the evening. Pale-colored flowers, the flicker of white fairy lights, and bolts of white, ethereal cloth added to the ambiance of romance. Fallon's doing, Sloane surmised, striding to the railing. As a talented event planner, Fallon had an elegant but luxuriant point of view that was rapidly growing in demand. If things had worked out differently, Sloane would've hired Fallon for her engagement party and wedding with Phillip.
If things had worked out differently ...
"Differently" meaning if Phillip hadn't cheated and then blamed his infidelity on her "irrational refusal to lose thirty pounds." After all, how could he be expected to fuck or wed a lazy cow who would be a direct reflection of him?
She gasped at the quick and sharp stab of pain and humiliation, pressing a fist to her chest. Even months later, her ex's remembered derision and contempt still contained the power to wound ...
Holy hell. That voice. The fingers of the hand not grasping the beer bottle like a lifeline curled around the patio railing. Her lashes fluttered and lowered. One word, and yet the deep rumble of it stroked over her skin, evoking images of shadowed bedrooms, rumpled sheets, and sweaty bodies. Good God, that voice needed to be bottled and sold in sex shops worldwide. Who needed porn with that purring dark velvet in your ear?
Shit. Purring dark velvet? What. The. Hell?
She turned around, and whoa.
The railing pressed into her back as she instinctively leaned away from the overwhelming, intense male towering over her, just inches short of invading her personal space.
Not that he probably gives a damn about little things like appropriate, polite distance. The thought popped into her head, and though she couldn't possibly know that about him, she didn't doubt the veracity of the statement, either. She had a feeling the "inches" were for her benefit, not his.
She inhaled a shaky breath — then immediately wished she hadn't. But too late. She couldn't scrub the woodsy, earthy fragrance of his cologne from her nostrils. Damn. Before this moment she wouldn't have believed a man's scent could be foreplay.
He said hello, the part of her brain still functioning hissed. Get it together, dammit!
Right, right. Oh Jesus Christ. Wasn't talking to oneself a precursor to Prozac and rubber-walled rooms?
Again, she forced her social smile to her lips. "Hi."
That inner voice sighed at her inane stupidity.
A corner of his mouth lifted in a half smile, and a dent in his cheek made a brief appearance. Dimples. Really? Because beautiful eyes, a gorgeous face, and hard body weren't enough? Butterflies took to flight in her belly. Damn butterflies. Raptors. Freaking pterodactyls.
Excerpted from Killer Curves by Naima Simone, Tracy Montoya. Copyright © 2015 Naima Simone. 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.
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