Authors: J.K. Coi
Tags: #alpha hero, #CEO, #Billionaire Hero, #bodyguard, #Indulgence, #across the tracks, #bad-boy hero, #light romantic suspense, #Entangled, #contemporary romance, #J.K. Coi, #bodyguard romance, #Romance
When a sexy CEO needs protection…only the best will do.
CEO Steve Nolan is wealthy, successful, and in danger. Now, thanks to his business partner, he has a bodyguard—a rigid, controlled woman with a smoky voice that invites steamy thoughts of rumpled sheets and oh-so-satisfying sleepless nights. So if Steve has to play the game, he’s going to make damn sure he’s in charge of the rules...just as long as no one finds out.
April Porter has met incredibly handsome, high-powered men before. Guys just as smooth, who didn’t take her seriously, and who broke her heart. So she’s just here to do her job and stay focused and professional.
Even if Steve Nolan isn’t just another rich jerk.
Even if the sexual spark between them keeps getting hotter.
And even if protecting his business and his ass(ets) means April could lose her heart in the bargain...
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Copyright © 2015 by Kristina Coi. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.
Entangled Publishing, LLC
2614 South Timberline Road
Fort Collins, CO 80525
Visit our website at
Indulgence is an imprint of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
Edited by Kate Fall and Tracy Montoya
Cover design by Louisa Maggio
Cover art from Shutterstock
Manufactured in the United States of America
First Edition December 2015
This book is for my mother and my sister, both strong women who would totally rock a pair of boxing gloves, but choose to be strong in other ways.
We don’t say it often enough to each other, but I love you both.
his is bullshit!” There weren’t any appropriate words to describe what Steve Nolan was feeling right now…but that would do for starters.
He closed his hand into a fist on the thick oak desktop and glared at his business partner, Ben Harrison. “How am I supposed to get anything done with a babysitter dogging my every move?”
“Christ, Nolan. You’re the one who made this course of action necessary. Maybe if you’d told me what was going on so I didn’t get blindsided by emails from psychos, I would have given you the same consideration when I hired the security consultant.” Harrison stopped pacing back and forth in front of Steve’s office window long enough to level him with an expression of aggravation that managed to look simultaneously like heartburn.
Steve groaned and mentally talked himself down. The situation was making him crazy, and he hadn’t meant to take it out on his friend…or the as-yet-unknown bodyguard Ben had hired without consulting him, who wasn’t even here to defend himself. Yet.
“And just what the hell did you think was going to happen when I found out what’s been going on?” Ben continued.
“Nothing,” he said, still feeling stubborn, combative, and frustrated as hell. “Because it’s none of your damn business.”
“When it starts to affect Optimus Inc., you bet your ass it’s my business.”
Ben was right about that at least. Nolan sighed, stopping himself from dragging his hand through his hair. “Listen, I’m doing everything I can to find out who’s behind this, but I’m handling it. The police didn’t seem to think there was anything to worry about, so—”
“If you’re so great at handling this, why did I have to call the cops? Why haven’t you mentioned this before, done something about it sooner? Since when do you just shrug off a death threat?”
“Technically, it wasn’t a death threat. More like…an expression of peevishness.” In fact there’d been five of them. Five unsigned, undated notes slipped beneath his apartment doorway—and in one case, the door of a hotel room on the thirty-first floor of the Four Seasons. They may not have promised his death, but they’d threatened him with professional ruin and disfigurement of important personal appendages.
“Call it whatever the hell you want, but you aren’t fooling anyone anymore. Real danger or not, this is already affecting our company and has to be taken seriously. That ‘expression of peevishness’ was leaked to the press, and if any more similar notes find their way there, our freshly released, brand new stock is going to plummet down to less than nothing before we even get the certificates printed.” Ben glared. “And just for the record, the police didn’t say there was nothing to worry about. They said they would look into it and that you should be careful.”
Steve and Harrison had met through a common business associate and formed Optimus Inc. together. Nolan had the business savvy and public connections, while Harrison had the tech know-how. Their advanced machine-learning software specialized in AI analytics, and after a lot of work and an influx of capital from their new investors, they had finally released it three months ago to massive success.
“So I’ll be careful, but I don’t need a bodyguard,” he said.
“It’s a security consultant.”
Steve snorted. “You can call it what you want, that doesn’t change the fact that you’re trying to saddle me with a babysitter.”
“Too bad. I know you too well. Until we get some answers, this person sticks to you like glue.”
Ben snapped his suit jacket and started for the door before Steve could voice another of his many objections. “The consultant has been recommended by the police department itself, and so you’re going to facilitate.”
In that case, the dude
be effective. He snorted. “Facilitate?”
“Damn right. It means you hand over those notes and cooperate while we figure out who’s behind these threats. Understood?” His friend stopped with one hand on the doorknob and looked back at Steve with a fierce frown. “If you don’t, I’ll have no other choice but to bench you until the situation is under control.”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“If you can’t cooperate with the police and your bodyguard, then you’re a liability to this company. I can’t have that, Nolan.
can’t have that. Especially not right now.”
“You can’t be serious. This is as much my company as it is yours.” But Harrison looked pretty damn serious. Shit.
“You seem to have forgotten we have stockholders now. It’s their company, too. Do you really think I’ll have any trouble voting you out if your problems threaten to cost them their investments?”
Steve was almost positive that Harrison wouldn’t really do that, but the threat proved how seriously he was taking this.
“You’re an asshole,” Nolan muttered. But he was an asshole who was right, and Nolan was an asshole for stressing his partner out about it. “Fine. I won’t fire the guy as long as he stays out of my way and doesn’t draw attention to himself.”
Harrison chuckled. “Don’t worry, I have a feeling the consultant will fit right in with your image, and everything will appear to be business as usual while the police figure this thing out.”
“The police aren’t going to figure out shit, and you know it.” He had no illusions about how investigations like this panned out. “But I agree with you that I shouldn’t have ignored this for as long as I did. You know I would never put the company in jeopardy.”
Harrison grunted. “I know that. And I understand why you didn’t want me to know about this, but you would do the same thing in my place to protect me or the company. Which also means you’re going to take care of this ASAP so Beth stops worrying about you. It’s cramping our wedding plans.”
Steve stifled a curse. Harrison and his fiancée were old business rivals who had reconnected at an industry event in the islands last year. Steve had kept this ridiculousness to himself specifically so his friends
worry about him when they were supposed to be planning a wedding and wallowing in their gooey, romantic happiness. That, and because he’d already been involved in enough drama to last him a couple lifetimes. This stalker crap would only drag that up in the tabloids again and get blown way out of proportion.
“You just can’t stand that Beth likes me better than she likes you,” he teased.
“You’re right; she does like you. That must be why she named the new puppy Stevie.” Ben chuckled as he opened the door. On the way out, he told someone waiting in the hall to “Go on in,” and “Good luck.”
Steve groaned inwardly, but he stood up and came around his desk.
A woman stepped inside his office stiffly, without smiling. There, she pulled up short and didn’t move another muscle. She wore a stark black suit and sensible black shoes with short, square heels, and carried a slim leather briefcase in her hand. Her posture was stiffer than a board, and she looked him up and down as if examining a slug stuck to the bottom of her shoe.
He’d been expecting the bodyguard but was more than willing to put that particular meeting off for a few more minutes.
Besides being dark, it was impossible to tell what color the woman’s hair was, pulled back in the tightest bun he’d ever seen. But the style showed off high, prominent cheekbones, and when she raised her chin, he was struck dumb by her brilliant blue eyes. Eyes that could drag a man out of the darkest hole and into the light.
He didn’t know why she was in his office, but he was already making plans to take her somewhere more private and ruffle her up.
“Can I help you with something?” Had Kathy scheduled a meeting without letting him know?
“I’m here from the security agency…” God, her voice was all throaty. The stuff of midnight wet dreams. It made him instantly hard. “I’m the bodyguard.”
The sweaty, naked images he’d conjured up careened to a halt like a thirty-car pileup on the expressway.
? She was…
He wasn’t sexist, and he had no doubt this woman was good at her job or Harrison wouldn’t have hired her, but…
“Do you have a problem with that?” She put one hand on her hip, but her smooth voice registered no surprise to his reaction.
He looked her over again, this time trying to focus on something other than the beckoning shape of her mouth, the graceful column of her neck, and the curve of her hip that was just perfect for his hands to hold on to. But no matter which way he turned, she still didn’t look like the bodyguard type. If she lunged in front of him to take a bullet, she wouldn’t even make a big enough target to keep him alive.
Not that he
her to take a bullet for him, of course, and it wasn’t ever going to come to that.
“No, of course there’s no problem. I guess I just expected a beefy dude with no neck wearing dark glasses, but you are much more my style.” He gave her his most disarming smile, but her eyebrows only arched over those ocean-blue eyes with disdain.
He wondered at her reaction. Had they met before? Had he slept with her and forgotten to call the next day? He was usually very careful to keep his assignations entanglement-free, but misunderstandings had been known to happen no matter how upfront he was about his intentions.
“I believe your partner hired a woman because you’re always surrounded by women, so nobody will think twice about my presence at your side.”
Even though it was impossible to ignore the derision in the woman’s purposely professional tone, Harrison was probably right. If Nolan had to have a bodyguard for a day or two, who better to have at his side than a beautiful woman? The tabloids were used to that, and it wouldn’t even be worth the memory space to snap a photo.
“I suppose that’s fair, but if you’re going to fit the image, you might have to take off that ugly suit,” he said, annoyed with her arrogant assumptions. By the pinched look on her face, she’d walked in here with her mind already made up about him, probably based on nothing more than the top five hits of a Google search.
She frowned and smoothed a hand over her jacket but didn’t protest his assessment of her outfit. He’d thought for sure he would have gotten a rise out of her that time.
He walked forward and caught the faintest hint of cinnamon. Not enough to be overpowering. Just enough to make him think about tasting her. He shook off the thought and stuck out his hand, realizing he didn’t know her name.
“I’m Steve Nolan, but I guess you figured that out.”
“Good afternoon. I’m April Porter.” Once again, her melodic voice wrapped around him like a velvet sheath, in sharp contrast to her austere appearance. It conjured unbidden images of darkened rooms and unmade beds. He self-consciously cleared his throat. She met him halfway and took his hand.
He was used to the clammy handshakes of his managers, all of whom seemed to bleed nervousness from every pore just being in the same room with their CEO, no matter what he did to put them at ease—although he tended to have much better luck with the women. But when Ms. Porter shifted her bag into the opposite hand and held out her arm, her palm was cool and dry, her grip strong. It proclaimed loud and clear that she would be difficult to intimidate, even more difficult to rile.
He couldn’t help his curiosity. How did a woman who looked like a goddess become so rigid and controlled? He’d never been able to resist a challenge, and she was so very stiff and sober-looking, it was like a carrot dangling from a stick in front of him. He might not want a bodyguard, but he wouldn’t mind the distraction of getting a woman like this to open up for him, like a juicy pineapple that was succulent and sweet once you got through the hard and prickly shell.
She clasped her hands over the handle of her bag and held it in front of her like a shield. This was a woman with something to prove, all right. The devil inside him was already aching to shake her up.
He waited for her to say something more, but nope, that was it. She looked as if she could stand there waiting patiently for an eternity. It made him vaguely uncomfortable. All that calm and stillness was unnatural, especially to someone whose longest stretch of inactivity was the four hours of sleep he crashed into every night.
Suddenly restless, he moved to the sidebar and opened the small refrigerator hidden behind a sleek mirrored panel. He and Harrison had finally been able to upgrade their offices just a few months ago, courtesy of a massively successful product launch, but now they needed another influx of investment capital to ramp production up to the next level. “Can I get you something? Water? Beer? Scotch?”
“It’s twelve thirty in the afternoon.” Ah, that voice. Despite the thread of disapproval, it was like warm caramelized sugar drizzling over his body—
“Then it’s legal, right?”
“I’ll pass, but thank you.” Her lips pursed. She definitely disapproved. This might actually be interesting…and probably very wrong of him.
He shrugged and straightened again, moving to the big windows as he twisted the cap off the bottle of water and tipped it back for a long gulp. He watched her reflection in the glass, wondering when she would get impatient, but she only stood there…waiting.
He’d just met her, but there was something about her that had immediately rubbed him…not wrong, but…he wasn’t sure. It felt like being in the cockpit of a jet and fighting the urge to punch it right into overdrive. He didn’t know why or how, but just looking at her, standing there all subdued and calm, provoked him. He turned his back on the windows to face her again. “This job is a waste of your time and abilities,” he said. “If you happened to want to hand in your resignation, I would make sure you still got paid.”
She took a step forward, the look on her face telling him that she was clearly considering it. And why not? It was easy money for someone in her position. She could take it and still get another client before the end of the day.
He met her halfway until he towered over her and they stood only inches apart. “That doesn’t mean we couldn’t still see one another,” he murmured, looking down at her pink lips and thinking about kissing her right here, right now. “Perhaps one night next week?”