Book 3 in the Body Armor Series
There’s no resisting a desire like this…
MMA fighter Miles Dartman’s casual arrangement with personal shopper Maxi Nevar would be many men’s fantasy. She seeks him out, they have mindblowing sex, she leaves. Rinse, repeat. Yet lately, Miles wants more. And when Maxi requests his services via the Body Armor security agency, he’s ready to finally break through her defenses—and protect her day and night.
Receiving a large inheritance has brought chaos and uncertainty into Maxi’s life. Her ex has resurfaced, along with lots of former “friends,” and someone is making mysterious threats. Then there’s Miles, who doesn’t ask for anything…except her trust. Pleasure is easy. Now Maxi has to give her heart as well as her body…or risk losing a man who could be everything she needs.
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is Book 3 in the Body Armor Series
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Miles rode the private elevator in the Body Armor agency to his boss’s very upscale office. The early morning summons left him confused and he didn’t like it. He’d been in the shower when she’d called at 7:00 a.m. Her message said only that he was to get there as quickly as possible. She had a surprise for him.
Of course, he’d called her back, but she’d told him she’d explain everything once he made it to the office.
He’d finished his extensive training only a few weeks ago, learning enhanced computer skills and practicing his shot with a variety of guns. He’d settled on the Glock as his preferred weapon, but carried a few other toys, as well.
So far he’d had two cases, both of them pretty routine. He’d helped to control pushy fans at a sporting event for a baseball player during a PR stint, and then escorted a big-time author with a new movie deal to some local signings around the area.
He missed competing, damn it. Missed the cage and the physical exertion. If fate hadn’t played him a dirty hand, he’d be at it still, fighting his way to a championship belt.
The loss of his fight career was only one of many regrets he suffered lately, and as usual, he shoved it from his mind, determined to live in the here and now.
The elevator opened and he stepped out, going straight to Sahara Silver’s posh office. As he passed Enoch Walker, Sahara’s personal assistant, he said, “She’s expecting me.”
“Indeed she is,” Enoch said without looking up from his PC screen. “Go right on in.”
Did he detect an unusual note in Enoch’s voice? Hard to tell when Enoch stayed focused on his task.
Miles liked Enoch a lot. He was a little dude with a will of iron and mad organizational skills. Always friendly, incredibly smart and damned reliable.
Because the door was closed, Miles knocked, and a mere second later it opened, almost as if Sahara had been waiting for him.
Oozing satisfaction, she smiled. “Miles.”
He paused, suddenly on guard. So far, his boss had been something of an enigma. On the outside, she was a real looker, a shapely five-foot, eight-inches of sass with glossy, mink-brown hair, direct blue eyes, and the demeanor of an Amazon. On the inside, she probably wrestled alligators and won. Always polished, always in killer heels and always sporting attitude.
“That’s a different smile for you,” he noted. “Why do I feel like I’m about to be offered as a sacrifice to angry gods?”
The smile widened, then she stepped back to allow him to enter. “Thank you for getting here so quickly.”
“You didn’t leave me much choice with that cryptic message.”
“I’m never cryptic.”
“No? Then what was so urgent that I—” That’s when Miles saw her. His eyes flared as he noted her huddled position in a padded chair, a steaming cup of coffee held in both hands. “Maxi?”
When he said her name, she straightened but didn’t look at him.
“What are you doing here?” For two months, he’d waited for her, hoping she’d get in touch again.
From the start, she’d made it clear that he was a convenient booty call and nothing more. That should have worked great for him, but instead, it had driven him nuts.
He’d finally, well almost, put her out of his mind with the job switch and move to a new apartment. Now here she was, at Body Armor of all places.
A slow burn started, making him blind to Sahara standing close, at least until she said, “Your friend has had something of an ordeal.”
“And she came to me?” Umbrage churned, made sharper by other losses at the same time. He fashioned a sarcastic grin. “Surprising, since she walked away without a goodbye.”
Maxi looked at him then. Those dark eyes he’d always found so mesmerizing were now glazed and somehow troubled.
And they stared at him like a lifeline.
It dawned on him that she looked terrible when he hadn’t thought that possible. One of the very few things she’d ever revealed to him was her occupation as a personal stylist, a job that seemed to suit her since the lady had always looked very put together.
Not this time, though. Dried leaves clung to her long, tangled blond hair. Gone were the trendy clothes and instead she wore an oversize flannel shirt, faded cutoffs and bright green rubber boots dotted with yellow ducks. The ridiculous clothes made her look endearing.
Concern sharpened his tone. “What the hell happened to you?”
When she didn’t answer, he went to one knee in front of her, resting his hands on her slim thighs. A few months ago they’d been in a similar position, both naked. But she hadn’t looked wounded then. No, she’d been soft and hot, moaning his name.
Blocking that memory seemed imperative. His tone didn’t lose the edge. “Maxi?”
Pale slender fingers curled around the cup of steaming coffee. She swallowed audibly, met his gaze again and muttered, “I’m not sure.”
“What does that mean?”
Sahara strolled up behind him. “Sometime before dawn, Ms. Nevar woke up in her yard, feeling very sick and with no memory of how she got there.”
Miles looked back at Sahara, his voice stern with surprise. “What are you talking about?”
“She was a fair distance from her farmhouse but made it to the back porch. Needless to say, she wasn’t keen on going back inside, not without knowing what might await her. The house was dark and her property is isolated with no close neighbors.”
Miles sat back on his heels in disbelief. He didn’t know jack shit about her property, but he put that aside for the moment. “Drunk?” He hadn’t figured her for a big drinker, but then, what did he really know about her—except that, for a time, she’d enjoyed using him for sex?
As if to convince him, Maxi stared into his eyes. “I’d only had one glass of wine. At least, that’s all I can remember.”
All she remembered?
Brisk now, Sahara said, “Despite being disoriented, she had the forethought, and guts I might add, to enter the unlit house to get her purse, car keys and those adorable boots.”
Adorable? They belonged on a ten-year-old, not a grown woman.
“Staying there was out of the question, and she wasn’t sure where else to go.” Sahara propped a hip on the desk. “Since she remembered that you work here, this is where she came.”
So she finally had a use for him again? No, he wouldn’t be that easy, not this time. But he had questions, a million of them.
Looking back at his boss, Miles said, “Give us a minute, will you?”
She smiled down at him. “Not on your life.”
. “If she’s here to see me—”
“She’s here to hire you.”
Hire him? He turned back to Maxi and got her timid nod. Skeptical, he clarified, “As a bodyguard?”
Since when did a woman need to be protected from a hangover? Did he want to be involved with that?
Now that he worked at the Body Armor agency, did he have a choice?
Sahara ruled with a small iron fist and she, at least, seemed taken with Maxi’s far-fetched tale. If Sahara took the contract, he might not have much say in it.
And who was he kidding? Much as he’d like to deny it, territorial tendencies had sparked back to life the second he saw Maxi again. In his gut, he knew he was happy—even relieved—to again have her within reach.
Maybe because she was the one who got away, or the one who hadn’t been all that hung up on him in the first place.
His ego was still stung, that’s all.
It didn’t help that her disinterest had piled on at a low point in his life, making her rejection seem more important.
She’d come on to him hot and heavy, they’d gotten together three separate times, had phenomenal sex that, at least to him, had felt more than physical, and then she’d booked. She’d guarded her privacy more than her body, and other than her name and occupation, he hadn’t known much about her, not where she worked, or lived, or anything about her family…
As to that, maybe getting smashed and passing out in her yard was a regular thing for her. If so, he’d count himself lucky that she’d cut ties when she had.
Yet, somehow, that didn’t fit with his impressions of her.
First things first. He had to get a handle on what had actually happened. “Where is this farmhouse?”
“Never heard of it.”
“Few people have. It’s a really small town forty-five minutes south of here, close to the Kentucky border.”
With that answered, he went on to other details. “So you woke up outside?”
“In your front yard?”
She shook her head. “A good distance away, on the far side of the pond.”
“Like a little decorative pond?”
“It’s two acres.”
Wow. Okay, so not close to the house then. “How long were you out there?”
Her brows pinched together and her hands tightened. “I honestly don’t know. The last thing I remember is opening a book to read.” She drew in a deep, shaky breath. “That’s it. Just reading. Then I woke up with a splitting headache, some bug bites and gravel digging into my spine.”
“What were you doing before opening the book?”
Staring down at her hands, she gave it some thought. “I remember cleaning the kitchen.”
She shook her head. “It was an all-day job.”
Who spent all day cleaning one room? He didn’t know Maxi’s habits, but maybe she’d never done any cleaning if tidying up dinner felt like a big chore to her. Hell, all he really knew about her was that she made him laugh, he enjoyed talking to her and she burned him up in bed.
Yeah, not a good time for that particular memory.
“Did you have company?”
“I don’t think so.”
“You don’t remember?”
“I can’t remember much of anything.”
“Then how do you know—”
“No one comes out to the farmhouse,” she snapped. “But I already told you, if someone did, I do not remember it.” Temper brought her forward in her seat. “I can’t remember anything. Especially not how I ended up sleeping on the ground in the middle of the night!”
Okay, so he had to admit, all in all that sounded like more than alcohol. Hell, had someone actually drugged her? If so, how and when? Most likely on a date.
Or had she trolled another bar?
Narrowing his eyes, Miles said, “I know you haven’t been to Rowdy’s lately.” Where they’d met. It was a nice place, small and with enough regulars that spiking a drink wouldn’t go unnoticed. That brought up another idea. “Switched to a less reputable bar?”
Still breathing hard from her rant, she settled back, and after visibly collecting herself, she shook her head. “No.”
That clipped voice didn’t deter him from his questions. “Any boyfriends been around?”
She gave another sharp shake of her head. “I don’t have a boyfriend.”
Glaring, she repeated, “No one.”
“Did you piss off your newest bed partner, then?”
“Miles,” Sahara chided mildly.
“It’s a legitimate question.”
Maxi scowled at him. “No bed partner.”
“You’re telling me that in the two months since I’ve seen you—”
“There’s been no one.” Belligerent now, she muttered, “Not since you, and you were a long shot. Sort of a last hurrah.”
She kept saying the craziest things. “I have no idea what that’s supposed to mean.”
Sahara interrupted with, “Look at yourself, Miles. With all her new obligations, she obviously didn’t mean to get involved, but then, I’m sure she didn’t expect to meet you.”
“Exactly,” Maxi stated, as if vindicated.
His temples started to throb. “Exactly what?”
Helpfully, Sahara explained, “Oh sweetie, you were supposed to be a one-night stand. Not a repeat performance.”
Sahara’s typical blunt approach might have insulted someone else; after all, she now knew something very personal and private about him. He couldn’t blame Maxi for sharing, not when Sahara had a way of getting the details out of people. Plus, too, Maxi was obviously out of sorts, therefore easily susceptible to Sahara’s not-so-subtle digging. At the moment, though, offense was the last thing he felt. Everyone at the agency was used to Sahara’s informal and often intrusive manner. It went hand in hand with a lot of caring, making her a most unusual but likeable boss.
After rolling his eyes at Sahara, Miles turned to Maxi. He wanted to believe everything she said, he really did. He’d even admit that she looked sincere.
Problem was, he knew her sex drive matched his own, and he sure as hell hadn’t been celibate.
Maybe this time she’d hooked up with the wrong man. Had she played around, and then tried to call it quits, but unlike Miles, the new guy knew where to find her and, in a sick way, had insisted?
He hated that thought. His natural instinct was to protect women, never to abuse them. His reaction to Maxi had honed that instinct to a razor’s edge.
Still, facts were facts. Why would a total stranger drug her only to leave her outside? That didn’t make any sense.
But a pissed-off lover? That at least explained a motive, if the guy had only wanted to fuck with her.
Miles gently lifted her chin. Caution filled her big dark eyes but she didn’t pull away. Checking for any other signs of injury, he tipped her face first one way, then the other. He didn’t see any bruises, but that didn’t mean much. He hated to ask, but he had to know. “Are you hurt anywhere else?”
Her tongue touched over her dry lips. “I don’t think so.”
Did she understand what he was asking? “I mean—”
“I know what you mean.” She spared a brief glance for Sahara, then lowered her voice. “I don’t think anyone…touched me. Not that way.”
Matching his voice to hers, he whispered, “You checked?”
She nodded. “As best I could. I mean, I was still wearing my shorts. And my…my panties weren’t twisted or anything.” She bit her bottom lip. “If anything like that did happen, I’d know, right?”
“I assume so.” Miles wanted to check for himself, but he could just imagine how that’d go over.
Sahara probably wouldn’t give him the privacy for it anyway.
So if she had been drugged—then what? She’d have to open up first instead of denying any involvement, but if he could find the guy, he’d annihilate him, no problem.
Because he didn’t want this to get personal, he told himself he’d feel the same for any woman. “You’re sure you don’t remember anything else? No other clues? No one I should check out?”
Nodding at Sahara, Maxi said, “Nothing that she hasn’t already told you.” Shivering again, she sipped the hot coffee.
It wasn’t cold in the office. In fact, beneath his hands her thighs felt warm. Reaction, then. To the upset of thinking she’d been roofied, or because she had been roofied?
The urge to gather her close strained him. Only the hard reminder that she’d left his life as quickly as she’d entered it kept him somewhat impersonal. “We’ll find out what happened.”
Relief washed over her, making her go limp. She looked down, gulped a few quivering breaths and nodded. “Thank you.”
The tears in her voice nearly undid him.
It must have affected Sahara too, because even though she’d refused to give them privacy moments before, she now said softly
Silence stretched out.
As Miles watched, Maxi banked the desperation and forced herself to calm. It surprised him when she said, “You’ve gotten bigger.”
He lifted a brow. Now that they had a moment alone, that’s all she had to say to him? Or was she just hoping for a distraction? “I’m not fighting anymore. Now I eat what I want.”
“But you’re not heavy.” Her warm gaze moved over his shoulders. “You’re still as chiseled as ever. Just…bigger. Bulkier.”
He shrugged. “True.” He’d had plenty of time to exercise and lift weights, especially since the Body Armor agency kept a state-of-the-art gym with every type of equipment a fitness buff could want. After all, bodyguards had to stay in shape. Plus, beating a heavy bag helped rid him of his anger.
Or so he’d told himself.
At the moment, the anger seemed dangerously close to the surface. “A lot can change in two months.”
Guilt brought color to her face so she didn’t appear as pale. She turned away before saying, “I should apologize—”
“You made it clear there was no commitment.” That was usually how he liked it. Just not this time.
“I know, but… It’s just that I had so much to deal with and…” She blew out a breath. “I was tempted to lean on you.”
He waited, but when she said nothing else, he frowned. “That would have been so bad?”
She choked. “You can’t tell me you’d have wanted that.”
“I don’t think you have a clue what I wanted.” Mostly because she’d never bothered to ask.
“Look at yourself,” she said, almost in accusation.
Sahara had said the same, and he still didn’t know what it meant.
“You can have anyone you want. I had no reason to think you’d want me, especially with all my…chaos.”
Chaos? He started to ask, but she cut him off.
“I figured it was better to go before I got rejected.”
With quiet anger, Miles said, “I wouldn’t have rejected you.”
“You can’t know that when you don’t understand what my life is like.”
He’d already said too much, more than he’d meant to, so Miles shook his head. “Suit yourself. But now that you’ve explained and had your coffee, you need to go to the hospital.”
“If what you said is true—”
Insulted, she asked, “You still doubt me?”
“—then you know someone probably roofied you.” Yeah, he had doubts. Too much of her story didn’t add up. If she claimed to have an angry ex, or if she’d been in a club, it’d make more sense. Either way, they’d know the truth soon enough.
Until then, he had an opportunity to turn the tables on her. He’d be accessible, he’d help her, but she’d be the one left wanting.