The Billionaire's Bodyguard Bride

BOOK: The Billionaire's Bodyguard Bride
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

No part of this work may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission of the publisher.

Published by Kindle Press, Seattle, 2015

A
Kindle Scout
selection

Amazon, the Amazon logo, Kindle Scout, and Kindle Press are trademarks of
Amazon.com
, Inc., or its affiliates.

Contents

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Thank You!

Acknowledgements

About the Author

Chapter One

“Stop squirming, Lauren,” Stephanie Knight admonished, suppressing a sigh as she grappled with the delicate pearl closures trailing down the back of the beyond-breathtaking designer gown. “If you keep fidgeting I’ll never get these buttons fastened. This is
so
not the time for an attack of pre-wedding jitters. Just take a deep breath and relax. Everything’s going to be fine.”

“That’s easy for you to say,” Lauren Reynolds groaned, struggling to squash the desire to kick off her white silk stilettos and run in the opposite direction. “You’re not the one who’s going to be walking down that aisle in a few minutes. Remind me again why I let you talk me into this?”

Stephanie locked gazes with her in the ornate dressing room mirror, shooting her a you-can’t-be-serious eye roll. “The answer hasn’t changed since you asked me that same question three seconds ago.”

“This is a bad idea. Beyond bad. Like that time in fifth grade when I let Rhonda Jacobson convince me to dye my hair purple.”

“Don’t be silly,” Stephanie chuckled. “You’re just nervous. That’s natural. Everything’s going to be fine.”

“Right. Everything’s going to be fine.” Lauren parroted her best friend’s affirmation, but she didn’t believe it. She shouldn’t be here, and she most definitely shouldn’t be wearing this masterpiece in white silk. Donning a wedding dress hadn’t featured on her to-do list for today. Or any other day in the next decade for that matter.

Taking a deep breath, she focused on her reflection in the mirror. A stranger stared back at her. Her green eyes had been lined and subtly shaded, the smoky shadow giving them a mysterious allure. Her cheeks glowed with a combination of anxiety and the soft pink blush the makeup artist had applied, and her normally unruly mop of blonde waves had been subdued in a polished French braid.

Watching Stephanie pin a bridal veil onto those newly tamed locks, her stomach executed a triple back flip. So she was experiencinga mini–anxiety attack. Surely that was normal considering she’d only met her groom a mere twenty-four hours ago?

The irony of what she was about to do didn’t escape her. The last time she’d offered her heart up to the man she’d loved, he had tossed it right back in her face. After that disastrous experience she’d vowed to never make the mistake of falling for anyone ever again. She’d already had her heart pulverized. Why on earth would she want to relive the torture?

Ergo, she’d banned bridal-related moments in any way, shape, or form from her life. Or at least that had been her intention until Stephanie had talked her into taking this walk down the aisle.

Nope. She really shouldn’t be here. And all the matrimonial vibes wafting through the air weren’t helping matters any. They were making her queasy. The only redeeming point in all of this was that her stroll down the aisle was for a tremendous cause. She was helping her best friend and raising tons of money for charity. Still, if she’d known when she’d volunteered to model for the mock wedding segment of the benefit fashion show she’d wind up pinch-hitting for the starring role, she never would have let Stephanie recruit her.

She’d agreed to play a bridesmaid in tonight’s little matrimonial adventure because she was comfortable with the role. She’d played the part in real life so many times she could carry out bridesmaid duties in her sleep.

Wearing the wedding gown, though, was an entirely different matter. The dress was a painful reminder of the happily ever after that had slipped through her fingers. The one she’d dreamed of sharing with
him
. Her emotional wounds were too fresh, too raw. She’d been a fool to think a man like Rafe Dimitriou could fall for a woman like her.

“But now you’re short a bridesmaid,” she ventured, in a last-ditch effort to be let off the hook.

Stephanie waved a hand in dismissal, clearly unconcerned. “I’ve already got that covered. Come on. This will be fun! Just think of it as a rerun of last night’s rehearsal, only this time you get to wear the best dress.”

“Last night I was only playing a supporting role, not walking down a runway in a designer wedding gown that costs more than what I earn in a year while three hundred pairs of eyes are glued to the stage.”

“It’ll be a piece of cake. Like they say in the business, ‘the show must go on.’ Mackenzie can’t model the wedding gown with a sprained ankle, so I really need you to step up. You know you’re the only other woman in the cast who can fit into this size four masterpiece. Besides, the hospital is counting on the funds tonight’s benefit will raise for the new neonatal unit.”

“You would have to remind me of that,” she grumbled, tossing her hands up in surrender. “Okay. You win. I promise I won’t torment you with my whining for the rest of the night.”

“Now that’s more like it. Hey, I’ve got some hot gossip to share,” Stephanie grinned, her eyes sparkling with delight in anticipation of the big reveal. “It’s guaranteed to take your mind off things while we wait.”

“Go on, then,” Lauren enthused, knowing Stephanie always gleaned the juiciest tidbits from the rumor mill. “Spill it.”

“It seems the hospital board has managed to finagle a special guest, some billionaire CEO. He’s already made a sizable donation, and he’s even volunteered to help with the fashion show. The benefit’s organizers thought it would be a great PR move to have him star in the show, so he’s taking over for Frank in the role of groom tonight.”

“I’ll bet Frank is ecstatic over that piece of news. He told me at rehearsal the only reason he agreed to model was because you twisted his arm.”

“What can I say,” Stephanie grinned. “I’m shameless. And you have to admit he was the perfect choice. He was positively yummy in that tuxedo.”

“Definitely drool-worthy,” Lauren agreed. “Apparently he has luck on his side, too. I wish a mystery guest would show up and take over for me.”

“That sounded suspiciously like a whine,” Stephanie chuckled as she made a final adjustment to the delicate veil. “I’ll overlook it since you’re doing me such a big favor. Back to the topic of yummy. I hear Frank’s replacement is drop-dead gorgeous . . . and unattached. Megan and Bethany met him when he dropped his donation off. They’ve dubbed him Mr. Tall, Dark, and Delicious. If their sighs and starstruck looks when they were raving about him are any indication, you could be thanking me before the night is through.”

Lauren breathed a long-suffering sigh. “We’ve been over this a thousand times, Steph. I’m very happy with my single status.”

“I know.” Stephanie punctuated the affirmation with a nod that made her auburn curls dance. “It’s just that I hate to see you let one bad experience sour you on love for a lifetime. The way that pompous jerk treated you was unforgivable, but not all men are like him.”

Lauren got that. Just because she’d declared love off-limits didn’t mean she planned to cloister herself away to live out the rest of her days in spinsterhood. She might not have any intention of diving in at the deep end of the emotional pool again, but she wasn’t opposed to dipping her toes in the lake of lust.

Of course embarking on a fling would be easier if she could shake off the remnants of Rafe that obstinately insisted on hanging out in her head. She was
so
over him. She just couldn’t seem to kick the bad habit she had of comparing every potential play date to him.

Tonight was a perfect example. Here she was surrounded by dozens of available, attractive, dynamic men, and yet not one of them measured up to Rafe. And none of them made her heart rev the way he had.

“It looks like I’ll have to postpone my sermon,” Stephanie told her. “Here comes Michael to walk you down the aisle.”

Michael greeted her with a low wolf whistle. “Lauren, you look stunning! Are you ready to knock their socks off?”

She smiled, taking the arm he offered. “Ready as I’ll ever be.”

It occurred to her, as the first strains of the wedding march filled the auditorium and they began their trek down the aisle, that perhaps tonight’s mystery groom was the answer to her dilemma. She didn’t want to get caught up in a serious relationship again, but a lighthearted fling might be just what the doctor ordered. Suddenly she was eager to see this Mr. Tall, Dark, and Delicious whom Megan and Bethany had raved about.

Drawing closer to the bridal party waiting at the end of the stage, she faltered in midstep as she caught her first glimpse of her groom.
No.
It couldn’t be!
But despite the denial screaming in her head, she knew there was no refuting the stunning evidence standing before her. Her mystery groom was none other than Rafe Dimitriou, the man who had stomped all over her heart two years ago.

Lauren wasn’t aware she was holding Michael’s arm in a death grip until he sent her a questioning look. Mistaking nervousness as the reason for her hesitation, he patted her hand and flashed a reassuring smile.

Somehow she managed to push back the shock, holding it at bay long enough to place one foot mechanically in front of the other until she and Michael reached the end of the runway. Standing in front of Rafe, caught in his enigmatic blue gaze like a fly thrashing in a spider’s web, she trembled in reaction to the torrent of emotions cascading over her.

She thought she would never see him again. She’d reached out to him countless times, begging over and over for a chance to explain her side of the story. She’d desperately needed him to understand that her betrayal wasn’t what it seemed. But her pleas had gone unanswered, and eventually she’d had no choice but to accept she’d been ousted from his life.

And now he was here, standing before her. Tall. Dark. Dangerous.

Michael handed her over to her “groom,” oblivious to the tense undercurrents gyrating between the couple soon to be joined in mock wedded bliss. Rafe took her hand, and the door she’d worked so hard to batten down blasted open, allowing all the old, familiar emotions to come rushing back in.

Regardless of the fact that she had every reason to hate Rafe Dimitriou, her traitorous heart reveled in the sight of him. Frank had been smashing in the tux at rehearsal last night, but what Rafe did to the suit should be illegal. Imposing was too mild a word. The crisp white dress shirt he’d paired with the elegant tuxedo accentuated his dark hair, bronze skin, and midnight blue eyes. The faint hint of ebony stubble shadowing his perfect jaw only added to his allure.

She’d run her fingers through that lush hair, pillowed her head on that broad chest, and scratched her nails down the lines of that muscular back in ecstasy. The man was a living, breathing masterpiece . . . like Michelangelo’s
David
in the flesh. There wasn’t a woman in the auditorium who didn’t have their sights locked on him, and who could blame them? Testosterone practically oozed out of his pores.

Much to her dismay, all of that testosterone happened to be focused on her at the moment. She willed herself to curb her body’s traitorous response as his mouth curved in a smile that revealed those amazing dimples. They still had the power to make her knees weak.

BOOK: The Billionaire's Bodyguard Bride
5.71Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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