An all-new story in Lexi Blake’s Masters and Mercenaries series is out this week, and you can read an excerpt right here.
She was rude and prickly, and he had to admit to himself that she was also right. How many times had he had a girlfriend tell him nothing was wrong when it obviously was? No matter what she’d done, he was also in the wrong. “Fine. I’m sorry, Allyson. I shouldn’t have said those things to you, and I shouldn’t have tried to twist it around so I didn’t have to feel bad.”
She stared at him for a moment and then seemed to come to some decision. “Okay.”
Things still didn’t feel settled. “We should talk about working together since this didn’t seem to go well.”
She shook her head, the chestnut strands caressing her shoulders. “We’ll be fine. I already told you I’m not picky. You don’t like me. I get it. Join half the world, man. I was the brat princess on a reality show. Everyone either hates me or they want to be me, which means deep down they hate me just a little.”
He definitely did not understand this woman the way he’d thought he would. Maybe she simply didn’t comprehend the stakes. She’d been a bit casual when talking about men who wanted to kill her. “You would trust me with your life?”
“No, West,” she said with a weary sigh. “That’s why it works. I don’t trust you at all, but then I don’t trust anyone with my life. You’re here because my parents need to know they’ve done everything they could to protect me, but I learned at a young age that I can count on no one but myself. I won’t rely on you in any way. Don’t get me wrong. I’ll stick to your schedule. I’m not going to run off and do something stupid. But I also won’t expect you to lift a finger to help me because in the end, you won’t find me worthy of saving. So I’ll save myself.”
She started for the conference door.
Now he did what his instincts told him to do. He stood up and blocked her way, looming over her because she didn’t cede a centimeter of space to him. She simply turned that gorgeous face of hers up, one brow rising in obvious challenge.
“I need to make something clear to you.” He was so stinking close to her, and the camera did not lie. She was even more beautiful in person. “I’m in charge while you’re here in Dallas, and I’m not in charge because your parents are paying me. I’m in charge because I am the man who will step in front of a bullet for you. I am the man who will take whatever is coming your way. We can not enjoy each other’s company and I’ll still protect you. I take my job seriously, and I will not put anyone’s life above yours for as long as we’re together. And that includes mine. Do I make myself clear, Allyson?”
She stared at him for a second, and a deep sense of satisfaction went through him. He now knew how to shut her up. Get into her space and challenge her. He would bet no one ever challenged her. She was a woman in control of the world around her, the queen of all she surveyed. It would do her some good to be around people who didn’t worship the ground she walked on.
He didn’t want to acknowledge that the air around them seemed to have come alive and was crackling with tension. Sexual tension.
The first woman he’d ever had real chemistry with and she was the one he was never going to touch.
“Perfectly clear.” She took a step back. “I’m going to wait on my stepdad. I’m taking him to the airport.”
“I’m taking him to the airport,” West corrected. “The job starts now. We have three guards, though I’ll be with you most of the time. When I’m off, it’ll be Tessa or Matt. I’m working out a schedule with them, but for the first day or two, it’s me twenty-four seven. I need to evaluate the situation and assess threats. When do we need to leave the office?”
“About an hour.” She didn’t look happy about it, but at least she wasn’t arguing with him.
“I’ll meet you and your stepdad in an hour then. Tess will meet us at your hotel and make sure it’s secure. I need an hour to pack and make sure everything at my place is handled, but then I’ll be with you for the night.”
She turned and walked away.