It's rule breaker Emily Foster's birthday, and like everyone at The Jungle Room, she just wants to get some action. Unfortunately, she stumbles on the wrong kind, witnessing a mob hit. To protect her, she's entered into the Witness Protection Program with by-the-book Special Agent Jake Ward as her chaperone.
When the location of their safe house is compromised, Jake stashes Emily deep in the Texas backwoods. The city-girl might be safe from the Mafia, but she has to contend with a psychotic rooster, a narcoleptic dog, crazy cowboys, and the danger of losing her heart to the one man she can't have.
Jake's as hot as he is infuriating, and she can't help but push all his buttons to loosen him up. Their mutual, sizzling sexual attraction poses a dilemma: Jake's determined to keep her safe and out of the wrong hands; she's determined to get into the right ones—his.
Each book in the Tangled in Texas series is STANDALONE:
* Rules of Protection
* Playing With Fire
* Law of Attraction
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About the Author
Alison Bliss grew up on a small island off the Texas Gulf Coast, where most of her childhood vacations consisted of camping or hunting trips to the deer lease. Although she will always be a Texan at heart, she currently resides in the Midwest with her Iowa farmboy husband and their two sons. With so much testosterone in her home, it's no wonder she writes "girl books."
As the youngest of five sisters, Alison has never turned down a challenge…or been called by the right name. Her writing career may have started out as a dare by one of her sisters, but Alison hasn't put her pen down since.
She's an animal lover, a closet video game enthusiast, and believes the way to know if someone is your soul mate is by canoeing with them because if you both make it back alive, it's obviously meant to be. Alison's an avid romance reader who enjoys penning the type of books she loves to read most: fun, steamy love stories with heart, heat, laughter, and usually a cowboy or two. As she calls it, "Romance…with a sense of humor."
Read an Excerpt
Rules of Protection
A Tangled in Texas Novel
By Alison Bliss, Theresa Cole, Gwen Hayes
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2014 Alison Bliss
All rights reserved.
I caught him eyeing me from across the room.
He was tall, dark, and ... well, interested. I couldn't get a good enough look to see if he was handsome. Although dim lighting obscured his face, it highlighted the thick, gold chain around his neck and ridiculously huge diamond stud in his ear.
Nestled in downtown Chicago, The Jungle Room buzzed with flashy, well-lubricated businessmen with oversized wallets and scantily clad women with oversized racks. They circled each other like vultures, waiting to see who'd fall onto their backs first. It appeared the men were winning — a form of upscale prostitution.
Gina sat beside me at the bar, encouraging me to do the flirty eye thing with Shadow Man. "It's your twenty-eighth birthday. Everyone should get laid on their birthday. What better present to give yourself?"
"I can give myself an orgasm."
Gina laughed. "Not the same."
I shrugged. "Depends on the guy. Besides, I don't need birthday sex. I can hardly see him. He's probably ugly."
"It's a one-night stand. Only thing that matters is the size of his — "
"Then pretend it's your birthday!" I downed my cosmopolitan and spun the stool around. "Bathroom break. Keep an eye out for Dale."
I followed the hallway to the restrooms. A line formed outside, but moved fast. Two women stepped in behind me, giggling like teenagers. I half-assed listened to them when someone grasped my elbow.
I immediately recognized the jewelry.
The man was 100 percent Italian Stallion, sporting a tight zipper shirt and black hair slicked back over his ears. He was around my age with a decent face — definitely not ugly like I'd thought — and he was tall and nicely built. Actually, he wasn't bad looking at all. Maybe Gina was on to something with this birthday sex idea.
"Hey, sweetness. Saw you eyeing me back there." He looked me up and down, licking his lips. "Now that I'm here, what are your other two wishes?"
Oh, jeez. Did he have to open his mouth? I hate men who start a conversation using cocky, sexist remarks. They come off as piggish jerks.
"I wasn't eyeing you. I was ... uh, looking for someone."
"Well, you found me."
"No, I mean someone else ... the guy I'm with."
Okay, so I lied. Dale hadn't arrived yet, and even if he had, no one would believe he was my boyfriend. Ever. I didn't have the right equipment Dale's sexual preference gravitated toward. But this guy didn't need to know that.
"The name's Sergio. How about I buy you a drink, honey?" He rubbed a finger down my arm as I stared at his weird girly hands.
"No thanks," I said, moving away.
"Aw, come on. I'll wait for you, then we can go get that drink."
"Thanks for the offer, but I can't."
He grinned as if I had somehow encouraged him and leaned against the wall. "No problem. I don't mind waiting."
What the fuck? Is he deaf?
"No, really, I can't. My stomach's upset and I ... I'm going to be in here for quite a while."
The two girls next to me made faces at each other, stepped out of line, and walked away. Oh, great. Did I just make them think I had diarrhea? Sadly enough, it didn't deter Sergio.
"Whatcha drinking tonight?" he asked, still not giving up.
I sighed, rolling my eyes. "Pepto Bismol."
A woman stepped out of the bathroom, and I ran in before the door could shut. I didn't know what was worse — me pretending to have diarrhea or Sergio not caring that I did. Gross.
Momentarily cornered, I tousled my hair, washed my hands twice while singing "Happy Birthday" to myself, and then reapplied my makeup. Hard to believe it was my birthday, and I was spending it hiding in a public bathroom eating a Tootsie Roll I found in the bottom of my purse.
I even realized something while in there. There isn't much to do in a bathroom to occupy your time — unless, of course, you actually have the shits.
I'd just finished chewing the chocolate candy when I poked my head out the door. Yes! He was gone. I hurried down the hall and rounded the corner, but Sergio stood at the nearby bar. I ducked back into the corridor, hoping he hadn't seen me.
I rubbed my hand over my eyes and breathed out. "Christ."
Then a smooth, deep voice asked, "You okay?"
It startled me at first, thinking Sergio had found me. I pulled my hand away from my face reluctantly and gazed up at a man with wavy dark brown hair. He was tall — probably a few inches over six feet — and wore black slacks and a white dress shirt. His steel gray eyes pierced mine, making it hard to form a coherent thought, much less breathe.
When I didn't answer, he asked again. "Are you okay, ma'am?"
"Um, I ... I'm fine."
"Let me guess, avoiding someone?"
My sluggish brain finally caught up, and I recalled hiding from Sergio. "You could say that."
"I just did," he responded, a hint of southern twang fortifying his voice. "Pull the boyfriend card. It usually works on us clowns."
"I tried, but this guy is more persistent than most. My friends are somewhere on the other side of the bar, and I'm tired of hiding in the bathroom."
The man glanced at his watch. "Tell you what, if you're still here when I come out, I'll escort you across the room."
"Best offer I've had all night."
His eyes scanned my black miniskirt, stopping on my bare legs. "Somehow I doubt that." He turned and walked toward the men's bathroom.
I blew out the large breath I'd been holding and resisted the urge to loosen a button on my blouse. Sergio or no Sergio, I planned to stay put until he came back.
Okay, so I'm a hypocrite.
Sergio's remarks and lingering looks came off way more threatening than the new guy's did. Tall, Dark, and Delicious was virtually harmless and particularly flattering. It helped that he hadn't approached me with a line; he was more interested in helping ... Ah, damn. Men are such weasels.
The guy played me. Of course.
He knew if he showed concern for my well-being, I'd drop my guard. That's why he did it. Sadly enough, it almost worked. After all, he was no threat; just a gentleman trying to help out a lady. Well, screw him! He could pull the hero crap on some other unsuspecting girl. I waited for him to come out to tell him to his face. But Sergio rounded the corner first.
"There you are, sugar. I wondered if you'd fallen in." Sergio handed me a shot glass filled with a pink liquid. "I got your Pepto, but I had to talk to three bartenders before I could get your order filled."
Seriously? Bartenders make a shot called Pepto Bismol?
I hadn't known it at the time, but what a lucky stroke of genius that was. Sergio must've thought it was a drink all along and hadn't realized I was a smartass.
The men's bathroom door opened behind me, and heavy footsteps approached. I was still irritated the douchebag had used a diversion tactic to hit on me, but the last thing I wanted was him to stroll up and ask me what I was drinking. It was one thing to let Sergio think I had an upset stomach, but it was a whole other thing to share that false information with the hunky weasel.
I threw my head back, downed the shot in one large gulp, and handed the empty glass back to Sergio. "Wait a minute," I said. "That wasn't —"
Two large hands captured my waist, spinning me sideways with dizzying speed, and a sharp, assertive mouth sheared the rest of the words from my lips. The stupid weasel was kissing me. I hadn't expected it, and it only furthered my irritation. I'd have to play along to make it look good. Either that or I'd be stuck with Sergio the rest of the night.
Damn. I hate weasels.
Begrudgingly, I kissed him back, but only to make it believable. At least that's what I told myself. If he wanted a show, then that's exactly what he was going to get. I leaned into him, curled my arms around the back of his neck, and moaned softly.
Immediately, his lips stopped moving against mine, and his body became rigid. I thought it was the end of the match, and we would each return to our respective corners. With me being the winner and all.
Boy, was I wrong!
The moment I began to back away, he firmed his grip on my waist and parted my lips with his tongue, deepening the kiss. No, actually, it wasn't a kiss, more like a molestation of my mouth. Who was I to complain, though? It was good. Really good.
My fingers slid through his hair. His tongue touched mine, and a fiery sensation rocketed through my entire body. Involuntarily, I shivered, and it set him off. His thumbs dug into my hips as he pulled me tighter against his growing erection. I gasped at his hardness and, remembering where we were, fought the urge to touch it.
A bathroom hallway in a packed nightclub wasn't where I wanted to partake in a public display of heavy petting. I must've surprised him when I responded to his kiss, but it all happened so fast I didn't have time to contemplate his motivation. Nor did I care to. Sergio had to be standing there with wide eyes and an open mouth, but I didn't want to stop long enough to check.
When I finally pushed the weasel away, he grunted in protest, but didn't stop me. Panting softly, I glanced around and noted the empty hallway. Sergio had disappeared.
I wasn't sure what to say. My brain shifted gears but had trouble getting up to full speed. So I said the first thing that popped into my head. "Did you wash your hands?"
A patronizing grin contorted his face, but he ignored my question and asked one of his own. "Why do you taste like Pepto Bismol ... and chocolate?"
My cheeks flushed with heat. "Long story, but it doesn't matter. Why'd you do that?"
"You kissed me. Why?"
"Long story, but it doesn't matter." He winked and then walked away.
His abrupt departure surprised me, but I was outraged he didn't ask for my name or phone number. Hell, he didn't even ask me to go home with him. As if he actually intended to save me from Sergio after all. And I never thanked him.
Back in the bathroom, I composed myself, fanning my face with a paper towel. I was hot, but it wasn't the kind of heat staved off by air conditioning. Only time — or possibly an orgasm — would cure the fever under my skin.
After a few minutes, I strolled back into the main room more in control of the brain fog that had overwhelmed me. I spotted Gina and Dale walking in the opposite direction from me on the other side of the dance floor. I yelled to get their attention, but the music was too loud.
Weaving through the crowd, I waved frantically and yelled again. "Gina! Dale! Hey, over here!"
By the time I noticed the step up in the floor, it was already too late. I tripped and reached for the closest thing to me, which happened to be a man. Trying to catch myself, I had an intimate moment with the bulge in his pants on the way down.
The floor punched me in the face, but the pain was slight compared to the mortifying beating my pride had just taken. Two seconds after I hit the floor, I decided to stay there. I wasn't sure if it was because I physically couldn't get up, or mentally didn't want to.
The man I'd felt up lifted me with ease, stood me upright, and held me until I steadied myself. Mortified, I refused to look up until I heard him ask, "Are you okay?"
No! It can't be.
My eyes shot up, looked directly into his, and I stopped breathing. It was the hunky weasel with the steely gray eyes. If I had to embarrass myself in front of someone, why did it have to be him? Where in the hell is Sergio when you need him?
The hunk smiled as if he read my mind. "I always wanted a girl to fall head over heels for me."
I stood motionless and tried to think of something to say that didn't sound stupid. "Well, next time I'm near your crotch, I'll be sure to bring my knee pads." Nope. That wasn't it. At least six guys turned their heads toward us and sucked in a breath.
A young Hispanic guy leaned over, flexing his eyebrows. "Damn, girl, where have you been all my life?"
"Out of it," I sneered. "Now, leave me alone. I'm talking to the weasel." Disappointed with our exchange, the guy turned away and shrugged to his buddies.
I turned my attention back to the man who lifted me from the floor and noticed he glared with one offended eyebrow raised. "The weasel?"
My cheeks flushed. "It's what I dubbed you, since I didn't know your name."
"Why a weasel?" He paused. "Wait ... You thought I was hitting on you back there?"
The confusion on his face changed to humor as he shook his head. "Nope."
I guess I should've been relieved, but I wasn't. Actually, I was insulted and ... well, pissed off. "Why not?"
"Is that a trick question, where no matter what I say I'm going to be wrong?"
"Just answer the question."
"Damn," he said, grabbing my arm and jerking me away from the crowd. "Why are you yelling?"
"Because I'm mad at you."
"You don't even know me. Do you have a split personality disorder or something?"
I gritted my teeth and narrowed my eyes. "You're a weasel and a jerk!"
My outburst made him laugh. A lot. When he finally got himself under control, he grinned. "Look, I get that you have this head-turning ability and like to stand out in a crowd, but I don't."
"You think I turn heads?"
"Sweetheart, a man would have to be blind or stupid not to look." He smiled again. Damn, I wished he'd stop doing that. "Definitely a looker, but that makes you trouble. I don't need the unwanted attention you crave."
"I'd swear there's an insult somewhere in there."
"Darlin', if I insult you, you'll be the first to know. Now point out your friends. I'll see to it you get to them safely."
I scanned the room and found Gina and Dale sitting at a small, round table near the bar. No one could miss either of them in a crowd.
Gina had flaming red hair, bright blue eyes, and a spectacular chest barely covered by a low-cut top. Her boobs were a statement piece; I'm talking breasts for days. She was highly skilled in the sex department and didn't care who knew it.
Dale was Gina's roommate. He had blond hair with spiky tips, honey-colored eyes, and dressed ridiculously well for a man — designer jeans, expensive silk shirts, and Italian leather shoes. One look and you knew his sexual preference without a doubt. But he didn't care, either.
It's what I loved about them. Neither pretended to be something they weren't. They were sexually profound individuals who enjoyed sharing stories of their lively bedroom adventures with me. Even if I didn't have much to offer on the matter.
I wasn't a prude, but compared to the two of them, I may as well have been a nun.
I pointed out Gina and Dale and, without hesitating, the weasel grasped my elbow and led me across the room, not stopping until we stood before them. They stopped talking the moment we walked up.
The weasel plopped me into the empty chair. He leaned down, brushing his lips across my ear, and whispered, "The name's Jake." Then he smiled and walked away.
Gina barely waited for him to get away from the table before fanning herself. "Who the hell was that?"
"That's Jake," I said nonchalantly.
Gina and Dale traded questioning glances and then Dale added, "Hellooo, Mr. Tall, Dark, and Yummy!"
"Was he the guy who gave you the eyes earlier?" Gina asked.
I shook my head. "No, that was Sergio. Jake helped me get rid of him."
"What's wrong with Sergio? Ugly?"
"No, but it's too bad about his personality. Not really the kind of guy a girl could fall in love with. He's already in a relationship ... with himself."
Gina and Dale both laughed.
"Oh, and he has tiny girl hands," I said, figuring they would draw the same conclusion I had. Weird, girly hands probably said a lot about the size of his package.
Gina wore a wicked grin. "If you were a virgin and slept with Sergio, then you'd probably have to sleep with someone else after him just to make it count."
Dale and I laughed, but he still looked confused. "So how did Boy Wonder come into the mix?"
"You mean ... uh, Jake?" Damn. I still wanted to call him the weasel. "He pretended to be my boyfriend to deflect Sergio." I wasn't going to go into specifics about the flirty encounter in the hallway. I needed something to tell them about later. It was all I had.
"He can be my boyfriend any time," Gina said, fanning herself again.
Excerpted from Rules of Protection by Alison Bliss, Theresa Cole, Gwen Hayes. Copyright © 2014 Alison Bliss. 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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