DEA agent Sawyer Hayes came to California in search of a drug cartel leader who slipped through his fingers in El Paso. The link to finding him is Kate Munroe, a nanny for one of his henchmen. The problem? He didn’t expect to be so drawn to a possible suspect. How is he supposed to do his job when his growing feelings for her are clouding his judgment?
Interior designer Kate Munroe’s life is a train wreck. Her parents’ deaths left her with their mounds of debt, she can’t get a job designing even a cubicle, and she’s bunking in her best friend’s spare bedroom. To make ends meet, she’s a nanny to a lonely little boy whose rich father works all the time. Romance is not on her radar. But her hot new neighbor could change her mind, with his broad shoulders and Southern charm. Too bad his secrets could destroy her.
|Publisher:||Entangled Publishing, LLC|
|File size:||3 MB|
About the Author
Cathy has always loved writing, but that pesky thing called Real Life cast writing into the backseat for years. Now she has reunited with her creative passion, and devotes every moment she can to all the plots and characters milling about in her imagination. She admits she finds story plotlines in everyday occurrences going on around her.
When she’s not writing her special mixture of romance and humor, she likes to travel read, and take long walks with her husband (the inspiration for her happily-ever-afters). Cathy looks forward to many years of writing for readers’ enjoyment.
Read an Excerpt
Oh, shit. Sawyer Hayes watched in horror as the volleyball he served soared out of bounds, straight toward the nearby woman in a beach chair. He cringed as it bounced off her head. Yes, he wanted to make contact with her, but not today. Today was all about getting her schedule down, not giving her a concussion. His shoulders slumped as she rose from the chair, rubbing her head and looking around.
He'd been concentrating on how Kate Munroe fit into the Ortiz and Cabrera drug network he and his team were investigating — not paying attention to this game. Was she simply the cartel pilot's nanny, or did she do more in the organization? Would getting to know her gain him access to Cabrera's home, and perhaps, his computer? Or even, his boss, the elusive Armando Ortiz, of whom even Mexican authorities didn't have a picture?
When Sawyer had started this drug investigation months ago in his hometown of El Paso, he hadn't imagined he'd be staking out a curvy female suspect on a California beach. He was used to interrogating druggies strung out on heroin or cocaine, not runway model types that would fit a man's bed better than a jail cell.
He had to acknowledge that, after traipsing through the desert and almost getting killed over the border, surveilling a statuesque brunette in a C-cup bikini was the Holy Grail of assignments. If she was dirty, prison orange wasn't going to look half as good on her.
And now he'd rushed their confrontation with his inattention. Son of a bitch. Behind him, his teammate and right-hand man, Ian, snickered, while one of the others muttered, "Way to go, boss."
Ignoring their jibes, he threw the first plan out the window and jogged over to Kate. Whether it was the way he'd wanted to or not, the deed was done, and he needed to capitalize on it. They had a three-month surveillance order on this investigation into her and her boss, and had to make the most of it. For their fallen comrade, Guerrero, if nothing else.
Sawyer studied her in that tiny red bikini as she bent to pick up the volleyball, allowing himself a moment of appreciation as he headed her way. She heard his approach and faced him.
"I am so sorry," he began.
She looked him up and down and took a step back, snugging the ball against her hip. He couldn't get a read on her first impression of him with those Lady Gaga sunglasses covering her eyes, but damn, she was hot. Swimsuit model hot. Grainy surveillance photos didn't do her justice.
She propped her sunglasses on top of her head with crimson-tipped fingers and angled her head to the side. Her ponytail swung over her shoulder, nestling into her cleavage. He swallowed a groan before it left his throat.
"Did you hit this ball? What's it made of, lead?"
She sounded like his seventh-grade English teacher when she caught him throwing a spit wad, though that woman had been built like an Abram tank. But the beleaguered tone was the same.
He grinned. "Guilty as charged."
Cocking a hip covered in the black and neon green board shorts he'd thrown on this morning, he brushed sand off one of his shoulders. He watched the tiny particles disappear in the ocean breeze, at a loss on how to steer the conversation.
"Are you okay?" Good job, Hayes. You strung three words together.
She rubbed the back of her head once more. Another flash of those baby blues had his thoughts scattering, except for the inappropriate ones. He was acting more and more like his seventh-grade self the longer he was in her company. All that toasty skin had him tongue-tied. He clenched his fingers to keep from reaching out for a tentative touch. What the hell was wrong with him?
"I'm still standing, so I guess so. If you wanted to meet me, you could've just said hi."
He laughed as her gaze swept over him. Damn, he'd never met such an engaging suspect. "I'll make a note of that. It worked, though, didn't it?" He widened his smile, congratulating himself on sounding natural.
She shrugged. "Yeah, but you need to work on your game. Both of them."
He chuckled, liking her quick wit, and extended his hand. "Sawyer Hayes."
She looked down at his hand, then back to his face. A tiny grin curved her lips. "Nice meeting you, Mr. Hayes. You'll have to excuse me. As pleasant as this encounter has been, I need to get ready for work." Still holding the ball under one arm, she bent to retrieve her things.
She couldn't leave yet. He hadn't made a lasting impression. He was just a blip on her radar. He wanted to smack his head and shake something memorable out of the gray matter that was gathering dust. Where the hell had his finesse gone? He'd been interviewing too many lowlifes, it seemed. "This is where you're supposed to tell me your name."
She looked over her shoulder at him. "I'm not predictable."
That bright blue gaze speared him. She was already proving that statement true.
"Then, what about my ball?" He grasped at straws to continue this get- together as long as possible.
She glanced at the ball as though she'd forgotten she held it, and then back at him. She narrowed her gaze. He'd only known her for five minutes, yet he could guess her intention. She'd make a lousy poker player, with every thought parading across her face like a New York Times headline. She looked again at the ocean.
Enjoying this back-and-forth more than he should, he grinned and shook his head, reaching out. "No. You wouldn't."
Pulling it out of range she said, "I need some time to get out of the line of fire, so yes, I would. Go fetch."
And on that parting remark, she hoisted the ball and threw it toward the ocean, where it landed with a splash. A chorus of disbelieving howls erupted from the volleyball court behind them.
With a shrug toward the players, she gave a two-finger salute before marching toward the apartments fronting the beach.
"That was cold. Stone cold," he yelled, but she didn't turn around. "Was it the ball hitting your head? That was a one in a million shot. It'll never happen again, I swear." He was rewarded when she darted a full smile over her tanned shoulder before continuing on her way.
He caught himself grinning. Somehow, he'd pulled his performance out of the dumpster. That quick smile and her raised eyebrows said she'd remember him. He watched her go, prouder of himself than the moment warranted. He had a long way to go before he knew whether she was innocent of her boss's drug cartel ties, or if she was up to her sexy eyebrows in guilt.
"Here it comes."
Sawyer turned toward the voice. Ian splashed after the ball to snatch it before the tide took it back out. Sawyer moved toward him, and the rest of his men approached.
"Damn, I don't mind one bit keeping my eyes on her." Tim, one of the guys on Sawyer's detail, kept shooting looks after the now-absent Kate. Sawyer snapped his fingers under the agent's nose to get his attention. The rest of the team chuckled, and Sawyer frowned. They subsided.
"She's a suspect in a high-stakes drug trafficking investigation, and we'd all do well to remember that. Besides, if we stand around gossiping like teenage girls, she's going to know something's not right. Now, wipe the drool off your chins and finish the game. Your serve, Ian." Sawyer jogged toward the court, aware of the disapproving silence behind him.
He knew the guys were just blowing off steam. Hell, it had gotten pretty intense back in El Paso. One of their members was still there convalescing from a nasty gunshot wound. That was why it was important to kick this investigation into high gear and get surveillance going, before more of them got wounded, or even worse, killed.
As their game continued, Sawyer made sure he goofed up enough not to raise Ms. Munroe's suspicions if she was watching, which he was sure she was. Even though she'd acted uninterested, he'd seen her quick up-and-down look, the telltale flush up her chest and into her face that said she found him attractive.
He'd have to accelerate their next encounter. If she was working for the Mexican cartel in some capacity, her information could help bring it down. She didn't look like she could hold firm in an interrogation, though the idea of strong-arming her left a bad taste in his mouth.
If she was innocent, hanging with her would afford him the opportunity to get close to her boss, perhaps bug his place, and hers. But it all hinged on a good first impression, which he'd nearly botched. Obviously, he'd been investigating druggies and scumbags too long. As Kate had said, he needed to improve his game. He spiked the ball too hard at the thought.
While Tim chased it out of bounds with a surly look, Sawyer continued his musings. If Munroe knew the man she nannied for worked as a cartel dealer's pilot, was she turning a blind eye? She was drowning in debt after her parents' deaths. Was the salary she made good enough that she'd ignore his illegal business dealings?
Or was she exactly what she looked like on paper, a disillusioned college grad who took a job out of her field to make ends meet? The old wrong place, wrong time scenario. He hoped that was the case. Hell, anyone in his position would. But it was hard to tell. He shouldn't care either way; she was simply his ticket to finding Cabrera's boss, the mysterious Armando Ortiz, head of the cartel snake.
Sawyer looked up. "What?"
"Game over. We won. You want best of five?"
Sawyer shook his head. No need to continue. He'd made contact with his mark. Now he had to massage that into an extended association. But he did owe his guys food.
"Naw, you bastards won fair and square. I'll pony up for pizza."
While the guys hooted and headed for their cars, Ian paused and looked back at him. "You coming?"
Sawyer shot a glance over at the beachfront apartments where Kate lived, and where he'd managed to rent a two-bedroom place next door. He'd begin Act II later tonight, if the opportunity came up. In the meantime, he could dig up more info on her, and maybe Cabrera. Find out just how close they actually were. He shook his head in reply to Ian's question.
"No, you guys go ahead. I've got some work to catch up on. If there are any leftovers — highly unlikely with you pack of jackals — bring them over." He took a step toward his new home, but Ian's voice halted him.
"Ya know, boss, it wouldn't kill you to hang out with us like you did back home. We all miss Guerrero, but he's gonna make it after some rehab."
Sawyer pivoted and met Ian's slightly challenging gaze. The guy had balls, criticizing him. And, he'd hit the nail on the head. One of their own had nearly died, and Sawyer wouldn't rest until Ortiz and his cartel were shut down. He owed Guerrero and his young family that much. If foregoing a pizza or two with the guys got the job done faster, then that was a sacrifice he was willing to make.
"There will be plenty of other pizzas, Ian. Our surveillance warrant is only good for three months. I don't want to waste any time."
"You're the boss." Ian shrugged and took off at a jog to catch up with the rest of the team. Sawyer headed for his apartment and a change of clothes. Time to get his ass in gear and, like he preached, stop wasting time.
* * *
As Kate crossed the sand, she acknowledged that it had been enjoyable to flirt with a gorgeous guy, even for a few minutes. She'd been drowning in grief since the crash that had taken her parents, walling herself off from any social interaction in order to keep her head above water, emotionally and monetarily.
She walked around as if she had a death sentence looming over her, which, in a way, she did. If she didn't pull herself out of the hole her parents' debt had dug for her, she would be dead. At least, financially. But catching the notice of a hunky guy certainly went a long way toward lightening her heart, if only momentarily.
Hopping over the low patio wall of her apartment, she slipped through the unlocked slider door. She couldn't resist sneaking one more look at the guys on the beach. Well, at one in particular. The hunk with the uber-masculine name. Hayes stood facing her apartment, and even though she knew he couldn't see her through the window, she retreated farther into the room.
It was clear he found her attractive, yet he'd remained easygoing, a combination that appealed to her. She didn't like overbearing, good-looking men who acted like a woman should be thankful they'd shown interest in her. But as much as she'd enjoyed their banter, she needed to pass on the insta- attraction. She had to get her life in order first. Complicating her already muddled existence with a cute guy wasn't her plan. And Sawyer Hayes had complication written all over him.
Thinking about her lack of options made Kate glance at the wall clock in the kitchen. She had just enough time to shower and change before heading to her nanny job. Although she wanted to be an interior designer full time, she enjoyed spending time with Mr. Cabrera's son, Roberto (he preferred the Americanized Bobby). And the money was excellent.
The eight-year-old was smart and sassy, with a big heart, even though his mother had been dead for several years and his father worked all the time. Bobby pined for attention from his dad, making him appear younger than his years, but the man was too busy working to be aware of his son's emotional needs.
Tonight he had an evening meeting with a real estate client. Kate wanted to yell at Mr. Cabrera and tell him he should spend more time with his son, perhaps throw some baseballs with him. Bobby complained that he was the worst hitter and catcher on his Little League team.
But his father was too wrapped up in the next big deal to hear the embarrassment in his son's voice. Didn't he already have other team moms taking Bobby to the practices and then bringing him home? Besides, if she were blunt with him, he'd probably fire her and hire someone else.
Mr. Cabrera was an old-fashioned, macho kind of man who couldn't be told by a lowly babysitter that he was doing something wrong. He had the answer to every problem, and it was money. Bobby needed the stability she provided in his life. She'd just try to make up for his father's absence as best she could, and maybe Mr. Cabrera would wake up before it was too late and notice his young son.
Deciding to bake cookies with Bobby if he had all his homework done, Kate shot one more admiring look out at the volleyball court beefcake before moving down the hall to the bathroom.
* * *
After spending two hours with his San Diego — based DEA contact going over records of Ortiz's organization, Sawyer returned to his new apartment, satisfied he had a handle on the cartel's previous activities in The Golden State, but he was nowhere closer to getting any dirt on Kate Munroe.
Whether she knew what her boss did for a living or not, he needed to get close to her to gain access to Cabrera's house, where he could place some surveillance equipment. Maybe get lucky and find out where Ortiz was holed up, as well.
It was too soon to tell if he was wasting his time on Munroe or not. But, the acceleration of his pulse at the thought of getting close to her was problematic. He shouldn't look forward to this part of the job that much. Especially since his lukewarm performance this afternoon hadn't exactly bowled her over.
Her combination of flirtatiousness and reticence had him curious, and not just as a DEA agent, but as a man. He needed to remember that people of his acquaintance weren't dateable. They cursed him, and shot at him and his team. Even though he found Kate attractive, his libido had to take a backseat to the investigation.
By now, low clouds had swept in over the beachside community, obscuring the sunset and setting the parking lot lights on. As he drove into the apartment complex driveway, he breathed in the salt air through his open window, waving to a couple walking their stroller-bound baby and a wiener dog.
He'd probably never have that sort of relationship, he mused. Someone to come home to every night, a child who'd screech "Daddy!" whenever he opened the front door. Not with this job. Hell, he hadn't had it growing up. His dad had been a cop, with the irregular hours that came with the profession.
Vague childhood memories of Christmases spent with his mom and various aunts and uncles, and cousins, flitted through his mind, very few of them including his dad. He remembered going to school functions with only his mom. One time he asked his dad to watch him play baseball in Little League before he went to work. Other kids' dads worked odd hours and managed to show up to games. His dad had shaken his head and ruffled Sawyer's hair. "Next time, kiddo. I've got bad guys to catch, Sawyer. I'm making the city safe, so you and your friends can play baseball at the park." The problem was, there never was a next time. He was always busy catching bad guys. Once he'd gotten to middle school, he quit asking. And then it was too late. His dad had been gunned down in a convenience store robbery by one of the bad guys he hadn't managed to catch.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Undercover with the Nanny"
Copyright © 2018 Cathy Skendrovich.
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.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.