Authors: Cara Marsi
Tags: #romantic suspense, #thriller, #suspense, #series, #contemporary romance, #sensual romance
Copyright © 2013 Carolyn Matkowsky
Discover other titles by Cara Marsi at Smashwords.com
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. With the exception of quotes
used in reviews, this book may not be reproduced or used in whole
or in part by any means existing without written permission from
This book is a work of fiction and all characters
exist solely in the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to
persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Any references to
places, events or locales are used in a fictitious manner.
Edited by Laura Kelly
Formatting by Sandra Edwards
Cover by Harris Channing
"When a female bodyguard is hired to protect a rich
playboy, she finds saving his life is easier than protecting her
When the past and present collide...
Somebody wants rich playboy Franco Callahan dead.
When security expert Josephine Fortune arrives on his doorstep
thanks to his sister Doriana, Franco finds it hard to refuse. He's
had a secret attraction for the diminutive bodyguard since they met
at Doriana's wedding five years before.
But attraction is all it is. Combat boot-clad Jo is
the kind of woman Franco usually loves and leaves. Which
makes the ruse that Jo is his new live-in girlfriend just that
until Jo gets a makeover. Suddenly seduction is on his mind and
Franco has all the time in the world to pursue it—and Jo.
Martial artist Jo can take down men twice her size
without blinking, but Franco's appeal outmaneuvers her emotional
defenses. Jo's tough exterior hides a dark past, and Franco seems
determined to learn her every secret. But he has secrets of his
The more Franco gets to know Jo, the more he realizes
he needs her in his life, and not as his bodyguard. But as the
threats to Franco escalate, Jo must use every one of her combat
skills to protect him.
Can Jo keep both Franco and her heart safe, or will
they pay the ultimate price for love?
ranco Callahan slammed the
door to his Delancey Street townhouse and hurried into the April
morning, glancing at his watch as he ran down the steps. He was
late. He’d wanted to get to work early. He had a busy day ahead.
His mind on the Connecticut casino bid and the pile of work waiting
on his desk, he strode along the uneven pavement to his black
Mercedes parked at the other end of the narrow street.
He answered his ringing phone as he hurried toward
his car, and heard a deep male voice rasp, “You didn’t get our
message the first time, Callahan. You’ve forced us to play dirty.
Give us the money and we might let you live.”
The menace in the stranger’s voice chilled Franco,
tightening his gut. “Who is this?”
“Maybe you’ll listen to our new message.” The call
Franco stared down at his phone.
An ear-splitting boom rent the air, vibrating the
ground beneath his feet. The blast sent Franco on his rear, the
breath knocked out of him. Ears ringing, struggling to sit, he saw
a ball of fire at the end of the street. Flames licked at what was
left of his car.
One Week Later
“Heard you need a bodyguard, Callahan.”
The sultry female voice jerked Franco’s attention
from his computer. He swiveled his chair and glanced toward his
office doorway. A thrill shot through him at the sight of the
petite redhead, arms folded across her chest, leaning impudently
against the doorjamb. He tamped down the excitement she always
aroused in him and narrowed his eyes.
“Well, if it isn’t Josephine Fortune. What are you
She stepped into the room and deposited her duffel
bag on the floor. “I’m real glad to see you too, Callahan. And the
name is Jo.”
The tough little spitfire rarely wore anything other
than camouflage fatigues, T-shirts, and combat boots. He couldn’t
help noticing the way her khaki-colored T-shirt stretched over her
firm breasts and the way her full, pink lips—kissable lips—parted.
She wasn’t his type he reminded himself, not for the first time in
their five-year association. His type was tall, blonde, leggy, and
a tigress in bed—not a fireball more comfortable on the shooting
range than between satin sheets. He shot her an insolent smile,
retreating into the playboy persona he showed the world.
Her green eyes, translucent and light as a spring
leaf, studied him. “Logan and Doriana sent me to protect your sorry
His eyes never leaving hers, he stood. “I told them
I don’t need protection. I’m sorry you had to come all this way. Go
back to Tucson.”
Tension in every line of her toned body, she moved
closer. “I don’t like this any more than you do, Callahan. Think I
want to spend my time babysitting some spoiled playboy? As far as
I’m concerned, if one of your bimbos has it in for you, that’s your
“No can do. Logan’s my boss. He sent me to keep
someone from killing you and that’s what I’m going to do.”
The fear that was his constant companion these days
pressed against his chest. Masking his feeling of vulnerability, he
flattened his palms on his desk. “Tell Logan and Doriana thanks,
but the Philadelphia police are handling the case. I don’t need a
She moved even closer and leaned over the desk until
their faces were inches apart. The woman had guts. He had to hand
that to her. He wondered if anything scared her. A familiar scent
surrounded her, teasing his nostrils. Grapefruit? On her the fruity
aroma smelled tantalizing and seductive. Jo Fortune, seductive? He
moved back from temptation.
She straightened and stepped away from his desk.
“Sure, I’d rather be in sunny Arizona than rainy Philadelphia. But
Doriana’s not too keen on her brother getting killed. So you’re
stuck with me until the cops get whoever’s after you.”
He studied her and something stirred in him, the
same feeling he’d had minutes ago; the feeling he’d gotten the
first time he’d met her at Logan and Doriana’s wedding five years
before, and every time after that. As an honorary member of the
Callahan-Tanner clan, Jo was present at family holidays and
functions. For all her smart mouth and bluster, he recognized the
hurt that shadowed her eyes and softened her generous mouth. A part
of him wanted to find out who put that hurt there and to take it
away if he could. Jo brought out a protectiveness in him that
scared him nearly as much as the thought of someone killing
Franco sank into his chair and gestured to the chair
facing his desk. “Sit, Josephine, and we’ll talk.”
She sat and crossed her booted feet at the ankles.
“It’s Jo, Callahan.”
He suppressed a smile. “And it’s Franco,
A glimmer of amusement shone in her eyes. “All
right. A truce. You call me Jo and I’ll call you Franco.”
“Agreed, since you’ve come all this way.” He settled
back in his chair. “Why did Logan send you without telling me?”
She held out her palms. “Logan figured once I showed
up, you wouldn’t send me away.”
“He figured wrong. How did you get past my
“Your father contacted the head of building
security. They were expecting me. I only had to show my ID.” Her
lips quirked in a faint smile. “It helped that your assistant is at
lunch too. We timed it just right.”
“My father knows?” The old, familiar insecurity
knotted his gut. “I run this company.”
“He still owns it.”
And he still owns you
. The unspoken words
were clear in her tone.
With effort, he dislodged the unsettling thought.
Four years ago he’d been forced to turn his life around when his
dad had a stroke. Then there was the situation with Mac, the
betrayal that had Franco questioning all he stood for, all he’d
worked for. A double whammy that had shifted his world on its axis.
After a rough start, he’d done a good job with the company,
bringing in more revenue every year, expanding into even more
countries. Yet, the force that was Dan Callahan was imprinted on
Franco positioned himself more comfortably and
concentrated on his immediate problem—the slim redhead sitting
before him. He gave her his smoothest smile, one that had won over
beautiful women and business sharks alike. “I appreciate Logan
sending you, but I told him I’ll be okay. I have faith in the
police,” he lied expertly.
Jo gripped the arms of her chair and leaned forward.
“The police haven’t done beans so far. Someone breaks into your
house two weeks ago and rips it apart. Then your car is blown up.
And they don’t even have a suspect.”
Franco loosened his tie, feeling suddenly warm. He’d
tried to push the incidents out of his mind, but they were always
there, threatening his peace, his control. His life.
He scanned her again. She was pretty, with those
eyes, those sharp cheekbones and those kissable lips. He cleared
his throat. “No offense, Jo, but what can you do for me? You’re
what? Five foot one, a hundred pounds? I’m five eleven and I work
out. I’d beat you in any kind of a fight any day. How can you
possibly act as my bodyguard?”
Sitting straighter, she grinned. “You think you can
beat me, Callahan? Care to find out?”
He laughed. “Simmer down. I don’t fight women, no
matter who they are.”
She sobered. “Look, Callahan—uh, Franco, I’m good at
what I do. No one is going to hurt you while I’m around. And my
size makes it easy to fool people. I’ll protect you.”
He loosened his tie some more. “And you expect to be
with me 24/7? I don’t see that happening. What about when you’re
not with me? Whoever is after me could strike then. It won’t work.
Tell that to Logan.”
“I’m not going anywhere. We’ll make it work. I’ll
move in with you. That’s Logan’s plan.”
“What? Us, living together? I don’t think so.” He
moved out from behind the desk and began to pace. “And what will I
tell people? I have a pint-sized bodyguard because I’m afraid? No,
She moved too, cutting off his route and facing him.
“Logan and Doriana care about you and they want you safe. I’ll keep
The sparks flying from her eyes hit Franco like
shards of glass. He couldn’t admit to anyone—least of all, her—that
the thought of someone trying to kill him scared the crap out of
him. After the two incidents, a thought had niggled at his brain.
Was someone from his party-guy past out to get revenge, or worse?
He’d done some things he was ashamed of. Were they coming back to
bite him? He didn’t want to put Jo in danger, yet he had no choice.
He was outflanked.
“Earth to Franco.”
Jo’s voice dumped him back to the present. He
leveled his gaze at her. “I wouldn’t want anyone to know I’ve got a
bodyguard. So what story do we tell to explain us living
She gave him a self-satisfied smirk. “So you’ve
agreed to let me help you?”
He shook his head. “I haven’t agreed to anything.
I’m curious to know what story you and Logan concocted.”
She lifted one T-shirt clad shoulder. “Simple. We
tell people I’m your girlfriend.”
Shock registered on his face. If she weren’t so
pissed off over this whole assignment, Jo would have enjoyed
Franco’s reaction. She expected him to start sputtering any minute.
She didn’t want to be here any more than he wanted her here. But
Logan had sent her, and she owed Logan her life. She’d do anything
for him and Doriana.
“No way,” he said. “No one will believe you’re my
girlfriend. You’re not my type.”
Hurt came out of nowhere and kicked her in the
stomach. Almost against her will, her gaze swept him. God, he was
beautiful, with his GQ-model high cheekbones, those chiseled lips,
and those wide shoulders under the beautifully cut suit, a suit
that probably cost more than her whole wardrobe. Of course, no one
would expect the rich, powerful, gorgeous Franco Callahan of having
a girlfriend who looked like her. She swallowed, mustering her
She hated that she’d always been attracted to the
spoiled playboy. Yet, looking at him now, she saw the subtle
changes in him—the strands of gray in his short dark hair, the
seriousness in the depth of his light blue Irish eyes, eyes that
gave no hint of the Italian heritage that flowed through him also.
Fine lines of tension bracketed his mouth. Had running an
international company done that to him? Gone was the arrogant
player she’d first met years ago, the one who swaggered through
life, a blonde babe on his arm. He’d changed and she’d been too
busy fighting her attraction to him to notice.
He must have ticked off someone bad enough to want
him dead. Years in the security business had her mind whirling with
possible scenarios. Maybe one of his old girlfriends was out for
some sort of revenge. Except the women she’d met didn’t seem to
have the smarts to come up with a vendetta.