The Object of His Protection

BOOK: The Object of His Protection
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Westmoreland family titles

Westmoreland family titles

The Garrisons

Westmoreland family titles

Westmoreland family titles

Westmoreland family titles

Westmoreland family titles

Westmoreland family titles

Westmoreland family titles

Westmoreland family titles

Westmoreland family titles

Westmoreland family titles

“So what would you like to do tonight, Charlene?”

She didn’t fail to note Drey had said her name with just the right amount of sugar-coating to spike her hormone level up a notch, and couldn’t help wondering if it was deliberate. A man with as much skill and experience with women as he possessed had to know when he’d hit the jackpot.

She decided to call his bluff to see just how far he would take this and if he was trying to break down her defenses. “I don’t know, Drey. What do you have in mind?” she asked in a voice so soft and seductive it didn’t sound like her own.

She watched his eyes darken a little and saw the smooth smile that formed on his lips. “Something that might get the both of us in trouble. But I’m willing to take the chance.”

Books by Brenda Jackson

Kimani Romance

Solid Soul

Night Heat

Risky Pleasures

In Bed with the Boss

Irresistible Forces

Just Deserts

The Object of His Protection

Kimani Arabesque

Tonight and Forever

A Valentine’s Kiss

Whispered Promises

Eternally Yours

One Special Moment

Fire and Desire

Something to Celebrate Secret Love

True Love


Silhouette Desire

Delaney’s Desert Sheikh

A Little Dare

Thorn’s Challenge

Scandal Between the Sheets

Stone Cold Surrender

Riding the Storm

Jared’s Counterfeit Fiancée

Strictly Confidential Attraction

Taking Care of Business

The Chase Is On

The Durango Affair

Ian’s Ultimate Gamble

Seduction, Westmoreland Style

Stranded with the Tempting Stranger

Spencer’s Forbidden Passion

Taming Clint Westmoreland

Cole’s Red-Hot Pursuit


is a die “heart” romantic who married her childhood sweetheart and still proudly wears the “going steady” ring he gave her when she was fifteen. Because she’s always believed in the power of love, Brenda’s stories always have happy endings. In her real-life love story, Brenda and her husband of thirty-seven years live in Jacksonville, Florida, and have two sons.

New York Times
bestselling author, Brenda divides her time between family and writing. She is retired from her thirty-seven year career in management at a major insurance company. You may write Brenda at P.O. Box 28267, Jacksonville, Florida 32226, e-mail her at [email protected] or visit her Web site at

The Object of His Protection

To the love of my life, Gerald Jackson, Sr.
He catches the wise in their craftiness, and
the schemes of the wily are swept away.
5:13 NIV

Special thanks and acknoledgment to Brenda Streater Jackson for her contribution to the Braddocks: Secret Son miniseries.

Dear Reader,

I enjoy writing continuities since they give me the opportunity to work with other authors. I also like writing books in which there is a puzzle to solve, along with penning a love story that centers on family secrets, skyrocketing passion and endless love.

In my story, Drey is a man with secrets. He is also a man who has an ingrained desire to protect, and he finds himself protecting Charlene Anderson. Charlene is equally determined to prove to Drey that she does not need his protection. Drey has a puzzle to solve, which weaves itself into a murder mystery that I hope you enjoy.

I love writing romance stories in which the hero and heroine are pitted against each other, but in the end, the mystery is solved and true love prevails.

I hope you enjoy Drey and Charlene’s story and their journey to finding everlasting love.

Brenda Jackson

Chapter 1

might as well come in since it doesn’t appear that you’re busy.”

Charlene Anderson didn’t need to look up to know who the deep, husky voice belonged to.

Drey St. John.

She did, however, glance over at the small heart-shaped ceramic clock sitting on her desk, the only part of her work area that wasn’t buried under paperwork. Drey was early although his visit wasn’t unexpected. He was a private investigator and she was a forensic scientist in Houston’s coroner’s office. It wasn’t unusual for him to drop by occasionally to harass her for forensic information that would help with the investigation of his current case.

“If you think I’m not busy, St. John, look again,” she said, not taking her eyes off the document she was reading. “Now get lost.”

She knew he wouldn’t go away. He never did. That didn’t bother her since she had a weak spot for the rebel private investigator and actually looked forward to seeing him, although she would never admit such a thing to him. His visits were the only high point in her rather dull life. At twenty-seven, she was focused on work, and no matter how you looked at it, dead bodies didn’t equate to great dates. Her social life was practically nonexistent, and of all things, she was still a virgin.

While attending Oklahoma State University, she had been too busy making the grades to get involved with anyone and had figured things would change once she finished school and got her career off the ground. She had been convinced, since she looked decent enough, that she would eventually meet some nice guy and get serious. That never happened. For her it always seemed to be all work and no play.

“Don’t you ever get tired of messing around with the dead?”

She glanced up. Speaking of dead…Drey was drop-dead gorgeous. Definitely a living-breathing specimen of a sexy male. Tall, dark and ultrahandsome. There was no doubt about the fact that at thirty-three he was every woman’s fantasy.

He had skin the color of creamy rich chocolate, and had dark hair and slanted dark eyes. All she knew about him was the tidbit she’d overhead from a group of women discussing him one day at lunch. According to them, his mother was half Chinese. If that was the case, she had passed a strikingly exotic look on to her son. Charlene had also heard that his middle name of Longwei meant “dragon strength” in Chinese. The name suited him because of his well-defined muscular physique.

“Not really,” she finally said, taking her eyes off him and attempting to return her focus to the document in front of her. “At least I don’t have to worry about the dead giving me a hard time.”

“Yeah, I would imagine they wouldn’t.”

She didn’t have to glance up to know he was no longer standing in the doorway but had come into her office. Her heart began beating twice as fast. The man had a way of getting to her. In addition to her erratic heartbeat, there was this unexplainable flush of heat that always overtook her whenever he was near, not to mention the way the air surrounding them always felt charged. He apparently didn’t pick up on such vibes, nor did he notice she did. He was too busy trying to pump her for information.

When he halted before her desk, blocking her sunlight, she decided to glance up, but took a deep breath before doing so. “And what got you out of bed so early this morning?” she asked, and immediately she wished she hadn’t when a vision of him getting out of bed—half naked—filtered through her mind. It was a nice vision but dangerous ground for her mind to tread on.

“I need your help with something.”

She rolled her eyes. “What else is new?”

“You’re the best there is,” he said, smiling. She wished he wouldn’t do that. He was sexy enough without the megawatt smile.

“Flattery will get you nowhere, Drey.”

“What about dinner tonight?”

She placed her pen down and leaned back in her chair. “This must be some case if you’re willing to spring for dinner.”

She watched the emotions that crossed his face, emotions he rarely let show. He was angry and upset but was holding it in. Something about the case he was working on was bothering him. She could feel it.

“It is,” he finally said. “And the answers may very well come from a stiff brought here last week by the name of Joe Dennis.”

Charlene turned toward her computer and typed in the name. “Nothing has been done with him yet. He’s on Nate’s list to do later today.” Nathaniel Ganders was her boss. “What exactly do you need to know?”

His tensed features relaxed somewhat when he said, “Anything you can tell me.”

She nodded. He understood there were limitations as to what she could share, and she appreciated the fact that he had never asked her to cross the line in doing anything unethical. Not that she would. “In other words, anything out of the ordinary.”


“Okay. I’ll take a look at the report when Nate’s finished. As you know, my boss is very thorough.” She cleared her computer screen and turned back to him. “I’ll let you know if I notice anything.”

“Thanks, and I’m serious about dinner.”

“But I’m not.” It hadn’t been the first time he had hinted at the two of them going somewhere to grab something to eat. She could barely handle her reaction to him now; she didn’t want to think how things would be if she had to share a meal with him. Besides, she considered him business and she didn’t mix business with pleasure. “Maybe some other time, Drey,” she said, knowing it wouldn’t happen.

“You said that before.”

Not that she was foolish enough to think that it mattered to him. “And I’m saying it again. I’ll call you if I learn anything.”

“Thanks, Charlie. I would appreciate it.”

Charlene glared at him, something she always did whenever he called her that. “Do I look like a Charlie to you?”

He smiled. “Hard to say. That lab jacket’s all I’ve ever seen you wear.”

Before she could give him a blazing retort, he turned and left.


The smile remained in place on Drey’s lips as he got into his car. For some reason he enjoyed getting a rise out of Charlene. In fact, the thought of seeing her today had pretty much kept his anger at bay, although it was creeping back on him now. He was discovering that being lied to all his life was something he was having a hard time dealing with.

Before starting the engine, he sat still a moment and stared out of the windshield, thinking about the conversation he’d had with his mother, Daiyu Longwei, a few days ago. The conversation had practically shattered his world when she had told him that Ronald St. John was not his father. Instead, the man whom Drey had considered his mentor, Congressman Harmon Braddock, was actually his biological father.

His hands tightened on the steering wheel as his mother’s words flowed through his mind.

Sighing deeply, Drey started the engine, thinking that in essence, he was investigating his own father’s death. His own father’s
he immediately corrected, since he was convinced Harmon Braddock’s fatal car accident had been deliberate. Someone had wanted him dead and Drey was determined to find out who.

Something else he couldn’t put out of his mind was that the very people who had hired him to find the truth were Harmon Braddock’s offspring—and his siblings. He shook his head knowing they didn’t have a clue as to what his relationship was to them. At some point he would have to tell them, but not now. He wasn’t ready to go there yet. It was bad enough that he had to deal with it. Besides, how his own mother played into the investigation was still a mystery since it was well documented that less than an hour before his death, Harmon had tried contacting Daiyu. Hell, Drey hadn’t known the two knew each other and none of the Braddocks knew that Daiyu was his mother. He didn’t like withholding information of any kind from clients, yet that was exactly what he was doing.

He had known the congressman for a number of years. When Ronald St. John, the man Drey had adored as a father, had gotten killed in the line of duty as a police officer when Drey was fifteen, Drey had taken it hard since the two of them had always been close.

It was during that time that Congressman Braddock took an interest in him. And later on in life when Drey had felt himself getting tired of his own career as a police officer, it had been the congressman who had encouraged him to start his own private investigating firm and had gone so far as to keep him on retainer during those times he’d been trying to make ends meet. He would be the first to admit that over the years, Harmon had become the father figure that he’d lost.

To be quite honest, at first when he’d heard of Harmon’s car accident he had no reason to suspect foul play, even when the other Braddocks had. But now Joe Dennis’s death was raising his suspicions.

Drey brought the car to a stop at the next traffic light as he replayed the facts of the case over and over in his mind. Congressman Braddock had gotten killed in a car accident. The skid marks on the road had been consistent with a car losing control. It seemed Harmon was heading for the airport, which was another mystery since Gloria Kingsley, the congressman’s executive assistant, who’d known Harmon’s every move, hadn’t known about any planned trip.

Another thing that baffled everyone was why the congressman was behind the wheel when his personal driver, Joe Dennis, usually drove Harmon everywhere he went.

And now Joe was dead and according to the police report there didn’t appear to be any foul play. Someone just wanted him dead. Why? And exactly what had been the cause of death?

Drey had a lot of unanswered questions but at least he felt fairly confident the latter question would get answered soon enough, once he heard from Charlene. With that certainty, his thoughts couldn’t help shift to the efficient forensic scientist. They might bicker every chance they got, but they understood each other. He was as dedicated to his profession as she was to hers.

In the two years he’d known her, he’d never met another no-nonsense woman quite like her, and he found her to be sharp, intelligent…and definitely beautiful. The latter he tried not to dwell on too much. Seeing her in that lab coat all the time should have been a turn off; instead it was a total turn-on because he often wondered just how she looked beneath it.

But what he liked most about her was that she didn’t hesitate to give him hell if she thought he deserved it, and that made the verbal sparring with her that much more fun.

For some reason he had felt the need to see her this morning. Of course there had been that matter regarding Joe Dennis, but it seemed once his mother had hit him with the news of his parentage, he needed the lighthearted banter he and Charlene enjoyed to take his mind off things.

Lately, all of his relationships with women had been casual, just the way he wanted. He didn’t have time for any type of serious indulgence, and the last thing he needed was a woman getting too clingy. He could tell that Charlene wasn’t the clingy type. Besides that, their relationship was strictly professional. He had asked her out to dinner a few times, after the information she had given him had helped him solve a case, but she had refused and he hadn’t had a reason to push.

Frowning, he turned the corner onto the road that would take him to his office. Later, he would drop by headquarters to check the police report again on Joe Dennis’s death to see if he’d missed anything. Drey was determined to find out anything and everything that he could.


“I’m leaving to attend a meeting, Charlene. Don’t stay too late.”

She smiled as she glanced over at Nate Ganders as he slipped into his jacket. “I won’t. In fact I intend to leave on time today.”

When he tried smothering a cough, she said, “And please take my advice and do something for your cold. You’re passing germs and I can’t afford to get sick.”

Nate’s chuckle was the only sound he made before leaving the room. She stretched her legs, trying to recall just how long the two of them had worked together. Three years. He was an easy enough boss, although he could be demanding at times. The city had this thing about doing more with less, and amidst a number of budget cuts, the coroner’s office was operating on slim funds that could barely keep up with the number of suicides and suspicious deaths they handled each year. Her only saving grace was that Nate left her alone to do her job, and the nice salary increases she’d gotten each year let her know her hard work and dedication hadn’t gone unnoticed.

Nate was a pleasant man, and a good father to two children. And from the conversations Charlene had overheard, he was happily married to a woman he’d adored for over twenty-five years.

Seeing it was almost five o’clock, she stood up after logging off her computer. She then recalled Drey’s visit and what he had asked her to do. Deciding now would be the best time since Nate had left for a meeting, she went into the autopsy room to take a look at Joe Dennis’s chart. Nate had just finished performing the autopsy on Dennis, and the chart was still lying on the table. She picked it up and began reading.

“Trauma to the head, consistent with an attack from behind, as well as several other bruises to neck and shoulders.” She raised her brow at the notation that a key had been removed from the victim’s stomach. She glanced over at the key that was on the table. Why would anyone swallow a key?

Deciding that was definitely something worth mentioning to Drey, she left the autopsy room, determined to call Drey once she got home. She was about to exit the room when she heard Nate talking loudly to another man. Odd, she thought, because in the three years she’d worked with Nate, she had never known him to raise his voice. And why had he returned in the first place? Most of the time his meetings lasted for an hour or longer.

BOOK: The Object of His Protection
4.56Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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