From USA Today bestselling author Sidney Halston comes the third Iron-Clad Security novel, Kiss Kiss Bang.
Six-foot-two and ripped...with superior computer skills, Josef "Joey" Clad is not your typical ex-Marine. The co-owner of Iron-Clad securities is 100% Alpha male, but under his muscular physique, he's the best hacker in Miami who specializes in running Iron-Clad's cyber ops. The perfect skill set for their new client who is getting threatening emails, a client who he definitely wants to get to know better. Much better.
Single mom, widow, Olivia Monroe has exceptional dreams that she refuses to let go of. Fifteen years ago, she left her broken home in New York City and never looked back. Now a dark horse candidate for Florida governor, she's not looking for a relationship. Even with the hot guy who sweeps in and saves her computer the night before a big speech. Her hero has trouble written all over him. Joey is too handsome, too funny, too confident, and way too hard to resist.
Too bad he's now her bodyguard.
About the Author
USA Today bestselling author, Sidney Halston lives her life with one simple rule: "Just Do It"--Nike. And that's exactly what she did.
After working hard as an attorney, Sidney picked up a pen for the first time at thirty years old to begin her dream of writing. Having never written anything other than very exciting legal briefs, she found an outlet for her imaginative, romantic side and wrote Seeing Red. That first pen stroke sealed the deal, and she fell in love with writing. Sidney lives in South Florida with her husband and children. She loves her family above all else, and reading follows a close second. When she's not writing, you can find her reading and reading and reading. She's a reader first and a writer second. When she's not writing or reading, her life is complete and utter chaos, trying to balance family life with work and writing (and reading). But she wouldn't have it any other way.
Sidney is the author of the Iron-clad Security novels, including Kiss Marry Kill and Last First Kiss.
USA Today bestselling author, Sidney Halston lives her life with one simple rule: "Just Do It"--Nike. And that's exactly what she did.
After working hard as an attorney, Sidney picked up a pen for the first time at thirty years old to begin her dream of writing. Having never written anything other than very exciting legal briefs, she found an outlet for her imaginative, romantic side and wrote Seeing Red. That first pen stroke sealed the deal, and she fell in love with writing. Sidney lives in South Florida with her husband and children. She loves her family above all else, and reading follows a close second. When she's not writing, you can find her reading and reading and reading. She's a reader first and a writer second. When she's not writing or reading, her life is complete and utter chaos, trying to balance family life with work and writing (and reading). But she wouldn't have it any other way. She is the author of Kiss Kiss Bang.
Read an Excerpt
Gubernatorial candidate Olivia Russo is expected to unveil her fiscal plan Saturday night at a fundraising gala amidst some pushback from her own political party. Ms. Russo currently leads incumbent Governor Harry McGregor by four points, but this speech could cause a major shift in the polls if her party decides to break ties with the unconventional candidate. President Hadley is scheduled to attend. Stay tuned for details ...
"Seventy-one!" the pimple-faced lanky kid with hair that fell over one eye yelled out.
Olivia's foot bobbed up and down as she glanced at the mint-green ticket with the number eighty-four on it.
As if it was a ticking time bomb, she balanced her laptop in one hand, scared that if she did anything it would break even more (if that was even possible). Her purse was sliding down her other shoulder. She was trying to maintain a semblance of sanity, but really, she just wanted to yell.
At whom? She didn't know. She just needed to relieve some pressure, and yelling felt like the right thing to do. But she stifled the desire and just stood there, pretending to be patient.
Normally she fidgeted. In fact, her best friend, Winnie Nightingale, had bought her a fidget spinner as a joke last Christmas. Except it wasn't a joke, she twirled that pink thing around all the time, which was why she'd stocked her house with fidget spinners after realizing it could possibly save her from chewing her fingernails down to nubs. But right now, she didn't have any hands available, so she just stood there, in line, waiting. And waiting ...
With the two-page, single-spaced to-do list she had sitting on top of her desk, a broken laptop was the last thing she needed.
Yet here she was, 5:45 in the evening on a Friday, doing absolutely nothing.
She had to polish tomorrow night's speech. Her entire campaign rested on tomorrow night's speech. Instead, she was standing in line in a popular electronic store waiting for the nerds, or geeks, or whatever they called themselves, to call number eighty-four.
When the screen had turned an infamous shade of blue and the laptop had made a click-clack noise, her heart had completely stopped. And then the computer had completely stopped. She had run out of her house not even bothering to slip the computer into its bag and headed straight here to ... wait in line, it seemed. And, at the rate the line was moving, she'd be here until Monday!
Her phone began to ring in her oversized purse. The others waiting, all looking as stressed out as she did, were starting to stare as she tried to reach into her bag with one hand while holding the laptop on the other, but her phone stopped before she could find it. She let out a breath, but a second later the ringing started up again. She groaned as she felt around the inside of her purse for her phone again.
"Seventy-two!" the kid yelled just as Olivia finally found her phone and yanked it out. Of course, it was too late. It had stopped ringing.
"Damn it," she mumbled under her breath. She had an image of decorum and control she needed to display at all times. This crazed woman in sweatpants, flip-flops, a messy bun, and an oversized T-shirt did not scream gubernatorial candidate Olivia Russo. Hopefully, no one would recognize her.
But she had to be prepared for tomorrow's campaign speech. All her efforts these last few months would be for naught if she screwed up in front of the president of the United States. And the key to her success lay in her computer.
All of this was running through her mind when her phone again began to ring, startling her out of her thoughts, which caused her to lose her balance and ... CRACK! Her laptop tumbled to the floor. "Noooo ..." she cried as she breathlessly answered her phone and crouched down to the floor. "Hello?"
"Mommy, Winnie says I can't have any more Oreos!" A second, more distant, voice appeared in her ear. "Sophie, did you call your mother?"
"No! ... Okay, yes! But you won't give me Oreos," her daughter whined at Winnie, her nanny and Olivia's closest friend.
"Sorry, Liv. She snatched my phone. We got this under control. You get your laptop fixed?" Winnie asked.
Olivia blew out a breath, sending her long bangs flying as she gave up and just sat down on the floor in the middle of the line, in the middle of the big store, in the middle of a possible nervous breakdown, as people stared at her.
She was so stressed out, she wasn't even embarrassed by her out-of-character behavior.
She looked down at the laptop and shook her head in defeat. "Not yet."
"Gotta run, Sophie's climbing the pantry shelves," Winnie screeched and hung up. Olivia's rambunctious daughter, the light of her life, was also a big handful most of the time. Strong-willed and persistent, just like Olivia herself.
"Seventy-three!" the kid bellowed from the counter.
Still sitting on the floor, Olivia swiped the phone off, threw it back into her purse, and covered her face with her hands. What the hell was wrong with her? She didn't lose her shit like this. What kind of woman sat on the floor of a store? A crazy one, was who. Something bubbled up inside of her. She wasn't sure if it was tears or ... laughter. Then her shoulders began to shake and a weird gurgle left her mouth. Before she knew it she was laughing hysterically.
How did she end up sprawled on the floor of an electronics store on a Friday night with a broken computer? When had her life spiraled into this, this ... chaos?
She looked up when she heard a camera phone clicking, and normally she'd be immediately in her professionally practiced pose: Spine straight, torso at a slight angle, chin up, left hand at her waist, hair casually (although professionally done) falling down over her right (not left) shoulder. Instead, she looked right at the man and snorted out a loud laugh as tears fell from her eyes. She wanted to tell him to please stop taking photos, but she couldn't get a word out between fits of laughter.
But suddenly, as she wiped her eyes with the heels of her palms, the older man was eclipsed by a tall — very tall — very imposing and very breathtaking man.
"Maybe instead of taking pictures you can help the lady, bud," he said, in a gruff voice that oozed confidence and annoyance. He crouched down, his jean-covered knee right by her shoulder. "Let me help you with that, darlin'." He extended his hand to her and helped her up, then he reached down for her laptop as she righted her purse and straightened her T-shirt.
"This doesn't look good." He shook the computer gently and two screws fell to the floor. When the pieces of metal hit the floor a giggle escaped her lips.
"Oh God." She covered her face. "Sorry. It's not funny."
She groaned as he snatched the numbered slip of paper from her hand, inspecting it. "I guess you'll be here until sometime tomorrow." He smiled and damn, the smile was something. Perfect white teeth, one small dimple, dark brown eyes that looked like they smiled along with his lips.
"Uh ... yeah, looks that way," she said, trying to tear herself away from those dimples.
He eyed her with an amused look on his face. "But you're having so much fun, I don't think you mind waiting."
"No. No. I mind." She inhaled and pushed down the hysterical laughter. "I just — I don't know. I lost it for a minute, I guess." She sniffled a little and wiped under her eyes one last time. "I think I'm okay now."
Again, the sound of a camera clicking. This was starting to really bother her. She'd had a terrible day. It hadn't started off too bad, but then around noon, she'd gotten a call about Sophie's behavior from her teacher, Ms. Flynn. Immediately that had clouded her day. And then the laptop dying on her was the icing on the cake. She groaned and turned her face away from the man. "Okay, okay," she inhaled. "You got your photo. Now please, if you wouldn't mind ..."
But the man took another photo.
"Not going to ask you again, bud. Put the camera away," the handsome man holding her laptop said, blocking the camera's view of her with his large body.
Olivia was used to having her face splattered across the news or magazines, but she wasn't in the mood to deal with this today. Today she needed to be a regular person having a regular shitty day. "Thank you for your help, Mr ..."
"Joey — Josef Clad. But everyone calls me Joey." He stuck out his hand and it swallowed hers.
"Well, thank you Joey. I'm not usually such a klutz, but ..." She shook her head. "Anyway, thank you. You work here?" She reached for her laptop but he didn't let go.
"No. They're my clients. I'm here as a contractor, checking some things in the office with the CCTV."
"Oh ... uh ... okay." Again she tried to take her computer back.
"Your name?" She wiped her eyes one more time. "Oh sorry, I'm Livie Russo."
"As in ..."
"Yep, as in Olivia Russo."
She saw recognition set in. "That explains the guy with the camera." He reached into his pocket and pulled out a card. "They're not gonna fix this, you know? They'll probably say you need to find a new one. I can talk to Joanne, the store manager, but even as a favor to me, I don't think they'd be able to fix it."
"I'll get a new one, but I need the files inside. My entire life is inside that computer."
"How fast do you need it?"
She fussed with the zipper of her purse, opening and closing it. "Um ... I have a speech tomorrow evening, which I was working on when it crashed." She poked her finger against her stupid computer.
Joey looked back at the counter and then to Olivia as if he was thinking about something. "I'm good with computers. If you leave this here you won't have anything back by tomorrow. It'll probably take them a few weeks because they'll have to send it out."
Okay? Well, that's just perfect. More great news!
"Don't tell me that." She'd almost cried when it had crashed. She had definitely yelled, but she'd been able to hold back the frustrated tears. But now she was going to cry. She needed her speech.
"I can do it in an hour."
She stopped fidgeting with her zipper. "That's ... uh ... what?"
He nudged the business card into her line of vision and she finally stopped staring at him and looked down at his card as if that would explain everything. "I own Iron-Clad Security. I can fix your computer. Unless you want to risk the kid in braces accidently wiping your PC, if he can even figure out how to turn it on."
No, she didn't want that. Not at all. But she also didn't know this man. "I see you're a smart woman, worried about trusting your personal files to a total stranger. Smart." He pulled out his phone and typed something then slid it back into his jeans. Her eyes were wide the entire time as he did his thing and barely let her get a word in edgewise. "Seventy-five!"
She looked to the kid at the counter, warily.
"Don't do it, darlin'. He'll screw it up," Joey said.
"No offense, but this is a place that fixes computers and you are ..." She looked down at the card. "A security guy."
"We do all kinds of security. That includes cybersecurity and some other ... more intricate kinds of computing, but it means that I know more about computers than most. I'm also a retired and highly regarded major from the Marines. ... That sounded arrogant." He shook his head in distaste. "I just want you to feel safe. It's the only reason I said that."
"Intricate?" Her eyebrows furrowed.
"Did some off-the-books stuff while in the service. Point is, I know my way around a computer. I can have you in a brand-new laptop, with all your files safely inside, in an hour. Or ... you can go with option B." He nodded at the acne-faced kid.
She narrowed her eyes. "You're cocky."
But he just continued to smile, knowing she was desperate enough to take him up on his ridiculous offer. "Nah, just know what I'm talkin' about, darlin'. We'll go to my office, you can go in your own car. There's probably still staff there, so you'll be completely safe."
As she assessed the man in front of her, with his black polo shirt and loose-fitting jeans and completely shaved head, a woman in a blue shirt and khaki pants came walking toward them. Her badge said, "Joanne."
"Joanne, please meet Ms. Russo. Ms. Russo, please meet Joanne, the general manager."
"Pleasure to meet you," Joanne said.
"Joanne here will vouch not only that my work is exceptional but that I'm not a crazy sociopath."
The woman laughed, clearly smitten with his big wide smile. "Joey's been working for us for about two years now, right, Joey?" "Just about."
"He set up all the protocols nationwide. Never a single complaint from any employee. I think you're safe with him, Ms. Russo. He's fun at the company parties, too." She smiled up at him.
"Thank you, Joanne." He shook her hand and she left.
"Eighty-one!" the kid hollered.
She groaned. "Why? Why would you want to help me?"
He smiled a big toothy grin. Her heart rate spiked and her belly fluttered, and she knew immediately that she was going to agree to whatever he was going to propose. "I'm a sucker for a woman in distress, Livie." Then he reached forward and pushed her glasses up.
Livie ... the way it rolled off his tongue ...
"I'll go. But don't get any ideas that I'm on the prowl for Prince Charming."
"Darlin', my intentions are far too dirty for a prince."
Well, at least he was honest, she thought, as she followed him out of the store.
It looks like the race for Florida governor is becoming too much for Olivia Russo, who is currently ahead in the polls. Last night, Russo was seen having a full-blown meltdown in the middle of Better Made Electronics. In the first photo you can see Russo, usually sharply dressed, wearing sweatpants, her hair disheveled. In the next photo ...
Twenty minutes earlier, Joey had been standing in the office upstairs going through CCTV footage of a recent string of store robberies when he'd looked up at the screen and saw her. She was a disaster. People were looking at her and shaking their heads as she tried to balance her laptop with one hand and grab something out of her purse with the other. Her clothes were too big on her, but he could still see the outline of a shapely body. Her dark hair was bundled on her head, except for a strand that had fallen over one eye, and she kept biting her lower lip. When her computer flew out of her hand and onto the floor he watched her sit down in the middle of the line. Then her shoulders began to shake.
From the camera's perspective it looked like she was sobbing.
For some inexplicable reason, he felt the need to go to her aid. He stopped what he was working on and jogged downstairs, and was confronted with a woman hysterically ... laughing. Her laughter was infectious, even though she was obviously having a complete meltdown on the floor of the store. She looked vaguely familiar but he wasn't sure why until she said her name. Then it immediately clicked. The hot gubernatorial candidate running against the sonofabitch Harry McGregor, who was the sonofabitch responsible for Joey's inability to go fishing.
On the way to Iron-Clad Security he quickly pulled up his phone to check on the last-minute job he was signed up to do the following night. He chuckled to himself when he saw her name as one of the speakers.
And now here he was, parking at ICS as Olivia followed him in her car, wishing he'd spent as much energy researching her as he had fucking with Governor McGregor over the last few months.
Joey had a shit ton of work to do and helping this woman was not on the list. But those green eyes and thick pink lips ... yeah, he'd help her all right. And then after that, he'd ask her out. Because he hadn't been lying when he told her he was no Prince Charming. The lustful thoughts he'd had the instant he'd laid eyes on her were not something out of a fairy tale.
He wished he was more tuned in to politics so he'd know more about her. The extent of his political knowledge revolved around the fact that he hadn't been able to go fishing for the last three months because of the toxic blue-green algae that was overtaking the bay and killing off the wildlife.
When he arrived at ICS, he parked his car in his usual spot and hopped right out, hoping to open her door for her. But she was already out of her car. "You drive too fast," she said, closing the door of her white four-door Lexus. She eyed his flashy red Ferrari and rolled her eyes.
Excerpted from "Kiss Kiss Bang"
Copyright © 2017 Sidney Halston.
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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