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by Joyce Palmer
Description: Katie Benson left her life of privilege to become a high school teacher a few hundred miles from home. If only she could find a man who lights the flames of her desire as well as her former bodyguard, life would be complete. Benson Security Director, Blake Malone has kept the little princess at arms length out of self-preservation after one night of almost crossing the line, ten years ago. An unwanted admirer forces the two, with unfinished personal business, into close quarters where the spark of attraction continues to ignite, this time the boundaries of propriety are blurred.
eBook Publisher: Cobblestone Press, 2011
eBookwise Release Date: January 2012
1 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [195 KB]
Reading time: 120-168 min.
Katie Benson closed her eyes as she pressed her head against the cushioned pedicure chair, the strong scents of acrylic and nail polish less offensive after being in this salon for three long hours. Having had highlights and a trim, as well as a manicure and now a pedicure, she was more than ready to finish up this pampering session. If she could just get the butterflies to stop fluttering around in her stomach, she'd be good to go.
"Tell me again why we're having a spa day in the middle of the week." Her best friend, Piper Drake, spoke from the adjoining recliner. Piper's shiny auburn hair cascaded in long ribbons over her freckled shoulders.
"Blake is coming." Katie anticipated Piper's reaction, having told her everything about her past before moving to Edison Bay, the small sunny Florida town on the southwestern Gulf Coast.
Piper's eyes grew round. "Blake, the award-winning kisser and bodyguard?" She fanned her face with her hand.
Mention of that one and only kiss with Blake made Katie's heart flutter, and she pressed her hand over her chest, careful not to smear her French tips. "Well, he isn't exactly a bodyguard anymore. Blake is director of security for my dad now. He spends his time managing everyone else's business." Including hers apparently.
"Your dad is a mega-land developer, so it's understandable to have security issues." Piper scrutinized her manicure, then bent her fingers to blow on the tips. "He's been very successful, and there are a lot of people who would like to see him fail. That's just part of business, I imagine."
Katie's brow twitched. She wondered how much her dad and Piper had talked when she'd taken her best friend home with her last Christmas. "We used to get threats all the time. Mostly from his competition or someone opposed to one of his development projects."
Katie remembered a time when she and her brother hadn't been allowed to leave the house, not even to go to school. A wild group of rabid protestors made a threat of some kind. She quivered at the memory, despite not knowing all the details. It had been a scary period just before Blake came into their lives.
Piper nodded. "People always resist change, even when it's progress and beneficial to the economy."
Katie knew her father had tried to keep bad things from her and her brother in an attempt to reduce their fears. He'd often commented he didn't want timid kids. Probably one of the reasons she as an adult enjoyed her independence so much.
Security concerns had been part of Katie's life for a long time. Not until college did she realize most families didn't employ bodyguards.
Reminded of bodyguards, she shuddered, still mortified ten years later by her brazenness the night she'd tried to seduce Blake in the swimming pool.
"Do you know why Blake is coming?" A flush washed over Piper's face, which Katie thought odd but didn't question. With Piper's fair skin, even a queasy stomach showed on her face. Katie had learned not to read too much into Piper's expressions.
"I have no idea." Katie swallowed over the lump in her throat. "Dad just called and said to have my guest bedroom ready for him." How was she ever going to be able to sleep with Blake Malone in the next room?
"Oh my God! He's going to be staying with you? In your house?" Piper ratcheted the tension with her animation.
Katie's stomach lurched. "I haven't seen him since my brother's wedding five years ago. We've only talked on the phone a few times since then." How could Dad do this to me? For almost ten years, her father had given her freedom to live her life as she saw fit and without interference.
"You can't think of a reason why he's coming now?" Piper gave her a curious gaze.
Katie squirmed, and her pedicurist grumbled, slapping her leg. Jeez, why'd she think this would be relaxing? As soon as the coral-colored polish dried, she and Piper could blow this joint.
"I'm afraid he might have found out about Nathan the loon." Not a good thing for her independence. Her father would freak out and insist she come home, no matter how old or how long she had successfully taken care of herself. "I don't know how, but it's the only explanation, unless he's coming for some other business reason. But then I don't know why he wouldn't be staying in a hotel if that were the case."
When her comments met with silence from the adjoining chair, she glanced at Piper's face. The peachy hue was a deeper shade.
Katie's forehead tightened, and her eyes widened as the explanation dawned. "You called my dad?" Anger washed over her chest and up her neck. She gripped the armrest and draped her free foot over to the side of the chair, more than ready to put some distance between her and Piper.
"Katie." Guilt laced Piper's voice. "Nathan is dangerous. He's stalking you. Anyone who keeps calling in the middle of the night, even when you've told him you're not interested, is obsessed." She frowned, worrying her bottom lip with her teeth. "Not to mention all those crazy notes he's left on your desk and car." She drew a deep breath. "I'm worried."
The pedicurist capped the polish, smiled as if not in the least interested in their conversation, rolled her short stool back, and got up. Katie pulled her other foot off the padded footrest and hobbled over to the drying station, purple foam-rubber toe separators in place.
Nathan McDonald was a pain in the ass, but he wasn't a stalker, maybe just a little thickheaded and pitiful. Katie should never have led him on by being nice to him in the staff lounge that first day of school last year. His chasing had been going on for almost two years, and it was getting rather bothersome.
Katie shook her head, perturbed. "I can't believe you'd call my dad without talking to me first." Betrayal lanced her heart. "You're my best friend. You're supposed to be on my side. You know how domineering my dad is. I told you." Her jaw tightened. "This is the last thing he needed to know."