For Her Protection. Lauren Giordano
“Haven’t you ever done anything rash?” Jillian asked in mock exasperation.
“No. I’m not a ‘rash’ kind of guy,” Luke said. “In my line of work, ‘rash’ equates to dead. The reason I’ve lived this long is because I play out every scenario…and when all else fails, I trust my gut.”
“But your gut may not always be right—”
“Sweetheart,” he interrupted. “My gut is never wrong.”
Luke’s smile faded, and she felt the burning intensity of his gaze as he explored her face. They both knew what they were talking about now, and it wasn’t undercover police work.
His unspoken message was clear. The affair that they were contemplating was wrong. They shouldn’t even be considering it. But, in that moment, she knew she wanted him.
For Her Protection
grew up in western Massachusetts, where she spent long summer days imagining she was Nancy Drew. She completed her first novel on a manual Smith-Corona at the age of twelve. These days her imagination still runs wild, but the stories flow easier on her computer. Since she started writing again seven years ago, her romantic suspense stories have won several writing awards. Lauren has also published several non-fiction articles in the area of public safety. She currently works in the field of risk and human resource management, and lives in Virginia with her husband and daughters.
To Mom and Dad, who always encouraged me to aim for the stars, and to Dan, who lifted me up so I could reach.
If only she’d run the red light. Jillian Moseby darted a nervous glance at the man crouched in the passenger seat and willed her heartbeat to slow. The gun was still pointed at her.
“I won’t hurt you. Do exactly as I say. No sudden movements and no questions until we’re outta here. Got it?”
She nodded mutely. Dear God, don’t let him harm them. How could this possibly happen? She’d been in the bloody States for less than a week…and now this.
“Look in your rearview mirror,” he instructed. “Tell me what’s happening at the building on the corner.”
“Which side of the street?” She was surprised. Her voice didn’t sound completely terror-stricken. His, on the other hand, had been controlled and unwavering. Whoever he was, he certainly wasn’t panicking. Unlike her. And his eyes… Jillian supposed she should be grateful they weren’t glassy and wild from drugs or fear. No, the eyes watching her were the gold of molten metal and came with the most intense, scrutinizing stare she’d ever been subjected to.
“My side, one block back. Look close.”
“Uh, right.” She glanced in the rearview mirror, aware that his gaze followed her every movement. There would be no chance for escape. Not from this man. He wouldn’t miss a trick. Her hands tightened on the wheel, her gaze flicking to the back seat. Not that she could ever leave them behind.
It was a miracle how children could sleep through just about anything. Two sandy heads were lolled over, nearly touching in their side-by-side car seats. And James was sprawled out next to them. He was sleeping, too, thank God. She couldn’t take a round of his six-year-old’s questions right now.
She knew the golden-haired stranger hadn’t seen the kids yet. He couldn’t have. Why, he’d nearly jerked the door off the hinges when he’d dived into the car. Now he was crouched down so low, he was more on the floor than on the passenger seat. Obviously he didn’t want to be seen.
“What d’ya see?”
Jillian adjusted the mirror away from the children and angled it back so she could see the corner. “Three—no, four—men standing outside the building.” She winced when he cursed and prayed he would lower his voice. Another shout like that and he’d wake the babies.
“Two of them just crossed to the other side.” She bit her lip as the news caused another round of swearing.
“What now? Where are they?”
His tone was angry but not fearful, not really. He sounded more…frustrated that he was relegated to the floor of her hire. She had the awful suspicion he would rather be out there—in the thick of it. She shifted her glance from his tawny eyes back to the mirror. “Goodness. One of them is walking straight up the middle of the street. He’s looking into car windows.”
“Dammit. Watch the light. As soon as it turns, I want you to step on it. Don’t floor it,” he ordered, “or we’ll attract more attention. And don’t let him catch you looking at him or we’ll be in big trouble.”
“What? What the hell is it?”
His tone was definitely exasperated. She heard him cock the gun in his hand, felt his tension as he readied himself for battle and suppressed a tremor of pure terror. She wasn’t ready for the chaos of America. She’d been very happy living outside of London. Far outside, actually. Away from traffic and guns and violence….
Still, it might be best to reassure the lunatic before he started firing the bloody weapon with the babies in the back seat. Only a week ago she’d made a vow to Annie that she would protect them with her life. Who knew she’d be tested so soon? “He’s not here yet. He’s about four cars away…and he’s got a gun, too.”
She kept an eye on the traffic signal. They’d been sitting here forever. It had to change soon. Three seconds later she gunned the engine and the overburdened station wagon groaned, vibrating in protest as it lurched forward. She heard the stranger mutter yet another curse under his breath and was fairly certain his angry glare had something to do with her driving ability.
“You said floor it, so I did.” She shot him a scowl as his tension began to rub off on her. It evaporated a moment later when she saw his face twist with pain. “Are you all right? Can I drop you somewhere?” Compassion overrode her fear for an instant. Perhaps if she helped him, he would let them go sooner. “I’ve got a long way to go today and I really can’t afford to get sidetracked.”
“No, I—” She hesitated when she realized he was poking fun at her.
“Goin’ all the way back to England?”
“No. I’m traveling to New Hampshire. I’m starting a new job there.” She glanced cautiously to her right. His voice had an edge to it that hadn’t been there a few minutes earlier. “What’s wrong, now? You look a little green. Are you feeling all right?”
“No, lady. I’m not having one of my best days. Matter of fact, I feel like hell.” He ran one hand along his unshaven jawline as though he were uncertain of what to do next. The white lines around his mouth took on stark relief in his coppery, tanned face.
“I hate to ask, and I hope you’ll understand, but I really