About the book
A Spy without a Country
Simon Weston grew up royal in a place where aristocracy still mattered. Serving Queen and country meant everything to him, until MI6 marked him as damaged goods and he left his home in disgrace. Ian Taggart showed him a better way to serve his fellow man and introduced him to Sanctum, a place to pursue his passion for Dominance and submission. Topping beautiful subs was a lovely distraction until he met Chelsea, and becoming her Master turned into Simon’s most important mission.
A Woman without Hope
Chelsea Dennis grew up a pawn to the Russian mob. Her father’s violent lessons taught her that monsters lurked inside every man and they should never be trusted. Hiding in the shadows, she became something that even the monsters would fear—an information broker who exposed their dirty secrets and toppled their empires. Everything changed when Simon Weston crossed her path. Valiant and faithful, he was everything she needed—and a risk she couldn’t afford to take.
A Force too Strong to Resist
When dark forces from her past threaten her newfound family at Sanctum, Chelsea must turn to Simon, the one man she can trust with her darkest secrets. Their only chance to survive lies in a mystery even Chelsea has been unable to solve. As they race to uncover the truth and stay one step ahead of the assassins on their heels, they will discover a love too powerful to deny. But to stop a killer, Simon just might have to sacrifice himself…
“Someone’s trying to kill me.”
Simon Weston tried to let the words settle on his brain, closing the door as Chelsea walked through. Chelsea Dennis, otherwise known as Denisovitch, the daughter of former Russian mobster Vladimir Denisovitch and niece to the recently deceased head of the Denisovitch Syndicate. Recently deceased because Simon’s boss, Ian Taggart, had taken care of the fucker. Simon often wished he’d been the one to stick a blade in the bastard’s heart.
He turned and couldn’t help but stare. Chelsea wasn’t the most beautiful woman he’d ever met and yet she stopped him in his tracks. He’d escorted some of the world’s great beauties on red carpets and to royal events, but it was a little criminal mastermind who got his cock hard just by walking in a room. She wasn’t exactly plain, either. With chestnut-brown hair and a petite figure, she was actually quite pretty until one noticed her hips and ass. Those catapulted her into goddess territory. Anything she lacked in the tit department was more than made up for with that healthy ass and curvy hips a man could hang on to while he fucked deep inside.
If he could stop wanting her, he would, but he hadn’t managed that trick yet. From the moment he’d seen her all those months ago, he’d been utterly fascinated. She was a mystery to him. Closed off, with more barricades around her than he could count, she still pulled him in the minute she walked in a room. And every time he got close to her, she smacked him with a No Trespassing sign right upside his head.
Unfortunately, he was a man who liked a challenge and he was definitely a man who never, ever learned his lesson. She was in his home without her sister to hide behind. She seemed to need him for something. The very idea made his dick hard. His stupid bloody cock was nothing but a puppy ready to play around her.
He closed the door behind her. “What exactly do you mean?”
He had to ask. Sometimes when she talked she spoke in an odd geek speak he didn’t always understand. She could mean something entirely different, something innocuous.
God, he hoped this was a joke.
She turned, though her eyes went to anywhere but him. She looked around, seemingly curious about her surroundings. Given her wariness around him, it wasn’t surprising she’d never been in his condo. He’d been in hers the day they’d met. He’d dragged her out of it. It might not have been the most auspicious of beginnings. “I mean that I got a little bomb sent to my apartment.”
“What?” He managed not to shout.
She finally caught his eyes. “Don’t worry about it. I defused the sucker. I just thought maybe I should find someplace safer to sleep tonight. Whoever it is, he knows where I live. What’s your Internet like? Please tell me you have wireless.”
She was awfully calm for a woman who had just escaped being blown up. His heart, on the other hand, was thundering in his chest, his blood pressure ticking up ominously. “You need to repeat that for me and this time I would like the story in much greater detail.”
She turned those big green eyes on him, her bottom lip disappearing behind her teeth. It was a nervous habit. She was full of them. He’d catalogued every single one, from the way her good leg bounced when she was anxious to how often she braided and unbraided her hair when she was bored. “Simon, I know this seems weird, but I don’t have anywhere else to go. I can’t go to Charlotte’s. Ian would be up my ass in no time, and I don’t have anything to tell him yet. It would make Charlotte freak out, and I don’t need her to get any more overly protective. I can’t go to the others. They all have kids or they’re trying to have kids, except Jesse, who freaks me out a little.”
So he was her absolute rock-bottom last choice besides Jesse Murdoch, who sometimes became a raging lunatic ball of murder. That wasn’t so surprising. She turned away from him every chance she could. He hated the fact that every time she did it, it felt like a kick in his gut. “So you came here because you can’t go to Ian and I’m sure you want to avoid the police. Otherwise it would have been smarter to call them when you got a bloody bomb sent to your condo.”
“Oh, I didn’t have time to call,” she explained. “It was on a thirty-second timer. The minute I opened it, the timer began. Luckily it was a fairly simple setup. Still, I got pretty nervous when that sucker hit five seconds.”
She was going to give him a heart attack. “Where is the bomb?”
“I left it behind. I kind of just picked up my bug-out bag and came here.” She hefted the backpack off her shoulder and set it on the floor. It made her breasts move against her T-shirt. They were small, graceful and delicate. They would likely be very sensitive. He lay in bed at night and wondered if he could make her come just by sucking on her nipples.
He forced his brain off her tits. The fact that she even had a bug-out bag should scare the shit out of him. “Where’s your car?”
If someone had followed her, he needed to know about it. She likely hadn’t had time to check for locator devices.
Her eyes slid away from his. “I didn’t bring it with me. I hopped on a train and then I walked.”
She didn’t walk many places. Her leg gave her hell and she’d never done the work to strengthen it. A nasty suspicion took root in his gut. “Why?”
Her eyes slid away. “It seemed like the right thing to do.”
A lie. He couldn’t afford to put up with that. She was in trouble, and if she’d come to him then she was likely in serious trouble. He had no illusions that she would attempt to take control, and if he allowed her to, she would treat him like an employee. He had no intention of being her lackey. If she wanted his protection, she would accept that he was in charge. Of bloody everything.
He moved into her space, watching her every movement. He wondered if this wasn’t why he was so fascinated with her. He’d never watched a woman, taken such utter care in knowing how she reacted, the way he did with Chelsea. He’d spent hours simply studying her face, the expressions, the little lines she got when she was angry or sad. She tried to pretend nothing ever got to her, to pretend she wasn’t hurt or upset, but Simon knew what to look for and she was scared. It was there in the little tremble in her fingers.
“Chelsea, was there a bomb on your car?”
“Yeah,” she said, muttering under her breath. “I ran a mirror under it. It’s a force of habit. I spotted it and left it where it was. Hopefully whoever it is thinks I’m still at my place.”
He cursed and turned away because that wasn’t the likeliest scenario. “They were probably watching you. Chelsea, they very likely followed you here.”
Her eyes flared, her little chin coming up in a stubborn pout. “I was careful. I know how to get rid of a tail. They didn’t follow me. It’s not a big deal, Weston. If you don’t want me here, I can go find a motel. I have a couple of cards that shouldn’t be traceable.”
Because she always kept a few extra identities on her just in case she had to run on a moment’s notice, whether from the authorities or from her unsavory connections.
“This is because you lied to all of us and haven’t gotten out of the business.” Information brokering. It was how Chelsea had made her money for years.
“That’s not true. I haven’t done anything Satan didn’t ask me to do.”
Ian. When they’d been in Europe, he’d discovered Ian had requested that Chelsea keep up some of her connections on the Deep Web so he could find information. He and Ian were going to have a talk. It likely wouldn’t go well. The fact that he didn’t really have any right to complain nagged at him. Chelsea wasn’t his. By all rights, Ian had more right to protect her since she was his sister-in-law. “I want to know everyone you’ve talked to in the last six months. I want access to every record you have.”
Whoever it was, they’d taken no chances. They’d had a backup plan. Someone really wanted her in pieces.
She turned her chin up, a stubborn look settling in her eyes. “This was a mistake. Just tell my sister I’ll call her when I figure this shit out.”
“You’re not going anywhere.”
The tears that suddenly sheened her eyes damn near killed him. “I didn’t know where else to go. I really don’t have another place here in Texas. I’ve never been on my own before. I can pay you.”
Oh, he could come up with a hundred different ways she could pay him, none of them having a thing to do with money. “We’ll talk about that later. You look pale. Have you eaten?”
“No. I found the stupid bomb this morning when I got home from the airport. I’ve been running all over Dallas ever since. I rode the train for hours. I actually went to Fort Worth and came back here to make sure I wasn’t being followed,” she said as she turned and started to walk into his living room. Bloody hell. His cousins were still here. The minute she’d shown up, he’d forgotten all about them.
They’d shown up this afternoon because he hadn’t been out to see them in months, and now he had to find a way to get rid of them.
“Hello, pretty lady,” a low voice said. Damn it. JT pretty much hit on anything with breasts. Chelsea could take flirting poorly. She’d been physically abused by her father, and from what her sister had told him, she was afraid of men. His cousin could be a bit over the top.
He hurried behind her in an attempt to put himself between the two.
“Hi.” Chelsea’s voice came out a little breathy.
“I’m JT, Simon’s cousin, and this is my far less attractive brother, Michael.” JT was on his feet, his hand held out.
Chelsea giggled. She actually giggled. She never, ever giggled. Laughed at him from time to time, but this was a girlish, flirty sound he’d never heard from her before. She stepped up and placed her hand in JT’s. “He looks like he’s your twin.”
“I’m definitely the prettier one.” Brooding Michael was on his feet, too, giving Chelsea a charming smile.
Chelsea turned and shook Michael’s hand as well. If she was scared because there were two massive walls of masculine flesh surrounding her, he couldn’t tell. She simply flashed a gorgeous smile and looked between the two of them. “Uhm, identical, much? Sure I see that JT has longer hair, but I think that’s because he was smart enough to avoid the Special Forces.”
Michael chuckled, absolutely unperturbed. “Hey, I can’t help that I’m a military man. Big brother there was always too fond of cow shit to leave the ranch.”
“That’s no way to talk about the future CEO of Malone Oil,” Chelsea chided.
JT’s grin faded. “How did you know that?”
Michael shot his brother a superior look. “Because she has way more in common with me, brother. She does her homework. It’s nice to meet you, Chelsea Denisovitch. Or do you prefer Dennis? Or The Broker?”
Simon stepped in. “Do you want to explain how you even know that term has any correlation to her, Michael?”
Chelsea had stiffened a bit, and Simon was deeply satisfied with the way she stepped back toward him. “I think I was right about the Special Forces, but it looks like your cousin is involved with the Agency, too.”
JT tilted his head, obviously not following the conversation. “I’m a little confused.”
Because he was the smart one who hadn’t gone into the intelligence field. Michael had mentioned earlier in the evening that the CIA was sniffing around him, but if he knew who “The Broker” was, it was more than a quick sniff. “You’ve been working for Tennessee Smith. He wouldn’t have talked to you about her if you hadn’t already said yes to him. He’s the devil, you know.”
Maybe that was laying it on a bit thick, but he didn’t like the fact that Ten was still thinking about Chelsea, still wondering if she or Charlotte had been the powerful information broker who had been responsible for taking down numerous arms dealers and human traffickers. Charlotte had attempted to take all the credit, but Simon knew it had always been Chelsea. Tennessee Smith was what the Agency liked to call “a handler.” He was the man who recruited and sent agents out into the field. He’d been Ian Taggart’s handler, and roughly six months before he’d made an attempt to bring Chelsea into the fold.
If Chelsea went into government intelligence, she would be lost forever. She was an addict. She craved the power she got the minute she touched a computer. If she got a whiff of the kind of power Ten could offer her, she would be lost to a world Simon wouldn’t be able to rescue her from.
Michael stepped back, crossing his arms over his chest in a show of defensiveness that came right out of their childhood. Michael had never taken well to having his actions questioned. “Just because it didn’t work out for you with MI6 doesn’t mean I have to sit on the sidelines, cousin. You can keep your opinions about my career to yourself.”
And there it was. He was a fuckup. He screwed up everything. He’d mishandled an operation and that was why he no longer worked intelligence.
“Didn’t work out with MI6?” Chelsea looked up at him. “What is he talking about?”
Michael seemed to understand he’d stepped over a line. “Nothing. I didn’t mean a thing.”
“He’s referring to the fact that I mishandled a case and got myself reprimanded. I chose to quit rather than wait for Damon to fire me. Luckily Tag needed someone with British connections.” Cold. He needed to remain utterly cold. His cousin was right. It wasn’t his business and no one wanted his counsel.
Chelsea turned on Michael. “Are you trying to imply that Simon did something wrong on the United One Fund case? Because you’re wrong. I’ve read that case and he did everything he could. How the hell was he supposed to know Charlotte faked her death? All he had was the fact that Ian Taggart’s wife had died and there was a massive cover-up around it. If you had that information, wouldn’t you act on it? It’s damn easy for a green agent to question the actions of a superior one, but you better back down because Damon Knight would never have fired him. He’s not a stupid man. Your cousin, on the other hand, can be a bit of a drama queen.”
Simon frowned. She’d read the reports about the UOF case? And she was defending him? And what the hell did she mean by drama queen?
JT grinned as he sank back into his chair. “I would watch it, Mike. She looks like she’s ready to take you down. I wouldn’t insult Simon there when he’s got such a fierce protector.”
Michael’s arms came down, his shoulders relaxing. “I’m sorry. To both of you. And I’m really not totally a hundred percent sure about working with Ten. I shouldn’t even be talking about the job.”
JT stared at his brother. “Those friends of yours who are out at the ranch, do they have anything to do with the Agency?”
Michael shook his head. “Like I said, I’m not going to talk about this.”
JT turned to Simon as though he could do anything about it. “He’s got a couple of Navy buddies out at the ranch this week. He’s using the guesthouse and I’m supposed to give them space or some shit. I thought he was just partying. Soldiers work damn hard and they play hard, too. I stayed away so he could blow off some steam with his friends. Now I’m wondering if he’s not meeting with the Agency. I don’t know that I like that happening on my land.”
Michael’s eyes narrowed. “The last time I checked, the Circle M still belonged to our father. You want to take it up with him? Like I said, stay out of my business, big brother, and I’ll stay out of yours.”
Chelsea frowned as she turned his way. “They’re pleasant.”
“They’re leaving.” He needed to get his cousins out of here. He couldn’t do a damn thing to figure out what was going on with Chelsea until they were alone.
The doorbell rang.
Chelsea stiffened, her eyes going for the door.
Shit. It was probably his food, but he couldn’t take that chance now. And he couldn’t hide it from his cousins. In this case, he definitely preferred Michael to JT. “Are you carrying?”
Michael’s whole face slid from angry to blank in a second. He reached around and pulled a SIG Sauer out of its holster at the small of his back. “Trouble?”
“Probably not. It’s probably Kung Pao chicken and two egg rolls, but it’s a rough neighborhood.” It was an upscale neighborhood. They wouldn’t buy it, but he had to let them know he wasn’t going to discuss it.
JT’s eyes had gone wide. “Why the hell are you carrying a gun?”
Chelsea had pulled her Ruger and was expertly checking the clip. “Why the hell aren’t you carrying a gun?” She looked up at Simon. “I’ll stay here with the cowboy.”
At least she wasn’t going to fight him. Simon nodded to the door and Michael moved across the floor on utterly silent feet. He got behind the door, ready to take care of whatever was on the opposite side.
Simon couldn’t risk looking through the peephole. He opened the door with a quick motion and prayed Michael followed his lead.
He didn’t need to be worried. A thin young man who couldn’t be more than nineteen stood in the hallway, holding out a paper bag. “You ordered the beef and broccoli?”
Nothing was going right with his day. “Sure.”
* * * *
“Should I call the police?” JT Malone kept his voice down but there was no way to miss the worry there. He was a future CEO. Chelsea was sure his day was made up of reports and checking the company stock. He very likely had never had anyone send him a bomb. His green eyes were tight with tension. He was what her sister would undoubtedly call smoking hot. With thick black hair and a lean body, there was no doubt Jackson Tyrell ranked heavy on the delicious scale, but somehow he couldn’t compete with Simon’s urbane good looks. JT fit the all-American cowboy mode, but Simon was a mystery. There was a dirty Dom under all that metro finery. It made her want to strip him down and figure out just what made him tick.
“I think Simon can handle it.” She could hear him talking, asking how much he owed. Her stomach rumbled at the thought of food. She hadn’t eaten on the plane and then she’d pretty much run around Dallas for hours hoping no one murdered her. No time for tacos.
She lowered her gun. It didn’t look like she would need it.
What was she doing here? God, she should have just taken off the minute she realized someone was after her. Why was she here?
You know why you’re here. When that stupid bomb was about to blow up, all you could think about was him. You’re here because you don’t want to die without knowing what it feels like to be with him just once. You’ve been looking for any reason to hop into bed with him even though you know it’s a terrible idea.
“I don’t like this at all. This is wrong.” JT moved in front of her. “You should be the one standing back. I should protect you.”
So he was a women-and-children-first kind of guy. It didn’t surprise her. It kind of went with the cowboy motif. If he was anything like his cousin, he was a heroic, self-sacrificing guy—the kind that she’d been sure didn’t exist anymore and maybe never had. They’d been a myth until she’d found McKay-Taggart and their band of Dommy men. Unfortunately, she couldn’t indulge JT.
“I’m the one with the firearm and the knowledge of its use,” Chelsea explained. “Have you ever shot anyone?”
“Hell, no, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know how to use a gun. I’ve lived on a ranch all my life. I don’t go out without a shotgun.”
Naïve. “There’s more to shooting a man than knowing how to fire. It’s different than killing a coyote. There’s a certain coldness that comes with pulling the trigger on another human being.”
She’d felt it several times before. She’d felt that cold seep over her when her father’s man came for her that night. She’d felt it again when she’d buried the man’s body and cleaned up the blood. Sometimes, she could still see the blood on her hands. So dark against the color of her skin.
“You just went white.” Simon was suddenly in her space. “What the hell did you do?”
She glanced up, and he wasn’t looking at her. His angry question had been directed at his cousin.
JT Malone shook his head, his hands held up. “Nothing. I did absolutely nothing and that’s the problem. I told her I should be the one protecting her, not the other way around. She should have given me the gun and stayed down, though I’m not sure why she needed protecting from the delivery guy. Is she allergic to MSG?”
Simon’s eyes narrowed. “Perhaps I overreacted. But she’s not giving up that gun to anyone. Is that understood? Now, I believe Chelsea’s come to speak to me on rather urgent business. I have to cut our chat short. I’ll call you in a couple of days.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea. I think we should stay.” JT looked at his cousin. “I don’t know what the hell is going on, but I don’t like a minute of it. I think we should call someone in. If you’re so worried you won’t answer the door without backup, something has to be done about it. We’ll call in the police or the feds. I’ve got contacts.”
Michael groaned. “This is Simon’s gig. You can’t play the CEO card with him.”
“He’s my family,” JT replied with a stubborn look. “You watch me. I know you two think I’m the soft one, but I can be a ruthless bastard when I want to be. I will protect this family with everything I have.”
Simon softened slightly. “I’m asking you to let me handle my own business, JT. This is my territory. If I need help, I will ask you.”
“Come on, brother. I think he can handle it. He’s not the same skinny kid who showed up at the house thirty years ago. You don’t have to protect him anymore. The same goes for me.” Michael put a hand on his brother’s shoulder. “Let’s go get a beer and we’ll talk.”
With obvious reluctance, JT Malone allowed himself to be hustled out the door.
She’d known Simon had cousins here in Texas, but seeing them, being in a room with them, made it more real. So often he was some sort of god in her head. Cool, calm, collected. Infinitely sexy. He was damn perfect in her mind.
And he’d been a skinny little kid who needed protecting. She’d needed protecting, too. She remembered clinging to her sister’s hand during the flight from North Carolina to Moscow. They’d watched their father kill their mother and then they’d only had each other.
“I’m sorry about that.” Simon moved to the big bar in his kitchen and started unloading the bag he’d set there. “My family can be a bit overbearing at times.”
“They love you.” That was obvious. She’d made a study of Simon, but the truth wasn’t always in data. It was the frustrating thing about life. Data, information, numbers were her specialty, but while she’d known about Simon’s ties to Malone Oil, she hadn’t counted on the fact that Jackson Tyrell Malone, billionaire heir to what amounted to an American kingdom, would truly love and want to protect his family. Or that his family would buck and fight against the constraints of that protection.
“Of course they do. They’re my family.” He brought down a plate and began to spoon food onto it.
That was easy for him to say. Family hadn’t been so easy for her. Just thinking about her “family” made her leg ache. Of course the damn thing ached all the time, and running around the Metroplex for eight hours hadn’t improved the condition. She needed a distraction, and work was her drug of choice. “What’s your wireless password?”
She needed to get on the web and continue her investigation. Whoever was pissed at her likely had blabbed to someone else. There were always tracks. Always hints and clues there for a smart girl to connect.
“That’s a terrible password.” They had to work on his security. A password should be something utterly random. At least seven characters long, and with a myriad of numbers, letters, and symbols. Too many people made the mistake of choosing something meaningful to them like “ilovedan” or “cutekitty.” Yeah, those suckers got hacked and fast.
She dragged out her computer. It was a lightweight laptop she’d had custom made and kitted out to do things ninety-nine percent of computers couldn’t. She had a hotspot, too, but it was almost out of charge. She’d run through her backup battery. Where to set up? She was going to be up all night, so she might as well make herself comfy. If she was smart, she could figure the whole damn thing out by morning and Charlotte never had to know how her baby sister had fucked up again.
A shadow fell across her screen. She glanced up, hating the way her breath hitched. He loomed over her. Simon, in all his suited up and very British glory. He’d ditched the coat, but his tie was still in place. The white dress shirt he was wearing couldn’t hide the lean, muscular lines of his body. She was alone with Simon. Simon, with his sandy hair and deep blue eyes and shoulders that seemed to go on for days.
“Put the computer away and come and eat.”
“I can eat while I work.” It damn near hurt to look at him so she let her gaze drift back to her screen.
A big hand came out and flipped the screen down. “You will sit down like a civilized person and eat until I’m satisfied and then we’ll have a chat about how this is going to work.”
Damn him. He was using his Dom voice on her, the dark, rich commanding tone he used on the subs at Sanctum. The one he’d used on her when they’d played together in The Garden. Play. It was a stupid word to describe what had happened between them. It hadn’t felt like play. It felt real and powerful and serious, and that was why she shouldn’t be here.
Do you know how I could make you feel?
She still heard him growling the words at her, offering to take her to an aftercare room. He’d asked her to give over to him, but she couldn’t. Not that way. She did know exactly how he could make her feel. Vulnerable. Lost. Aching.
“Simon, I’ve thought about this and I just need a place to stay for the night. Maybe two, tops. Just let me do a little digging and I’ll get out of your hair.” Now that she was here with him, she remembered how dangerous he could be to her peace of mind. “You don’t have to concern yourself too much with it.”
He nodded shortly and turned away from her.
Well, at least that had been easy.
He strode to the bar and picked up his cell phone. After a single push against the screen, he placed the phone to his ear. “Hello, Tag. I’m sorry to bother you.”
Fuck. Fuck. Mother fuck. She stood up and shook her head, keeping her voice down. “Don’t you dare.”
“Yes, it was a long flight. Hang on a moment.” He pushed the mute button. “I can tell him I’m not coming into work tomorrow or I can hand you over and let him deal with you. It’s your choice.”
“That is not fair.”
“I don’t care about fair. You’ll deal with him or me. Make your decision. If you’re going to deal with me, you will go sit down at the table and eat dinner. If not, get your bag together because I have the feeling Ian will move very quickly.”
He was a son of a bitch.
And you’re stupid if you lie to yourself. You’re here because you knew damn well he wouldn’t leave you alone. You’re here because you can’t handle him the way you do everyone else.
He wouldn’t back down. He wouldn’t compromise. If she didn’t want to end up at Ian and Charlotte’s, giving the entire investigation over to Ian, she better move.
She stood up, leaving her computer behind because apparently it wasn’t welcome at Simon’s civilized dinner table. She very quietly sat down in front of the plate Simon had made for her. Naturally his small dining area was immaculately kept and the presentation even of take-out Chinese food was lovely. She microwaved things or ate her take-out straight from the bag. She had the place Charlotte had bought, but her sister had selected everything in it. She rarely used the dishes and wasn’t sure just how long it had been since she sat down for dinner. Chelsea pointedly picked up a spoon and started in on the wonton soup.
“I need a few days. Yes, something’s come up with my cousins. No. I don’t think we need to bring the team in. I’ll take Jesse with me and we’ll see if my cousin is being paranoid.” He stared at her as he spoke, never taking his eyes off her. “Yes, once I get out there, my aunt won’t let me leave for a day or two. Excellent. Thank you. Yes, I’ll check in.”
He put the phone down.
“You’re a son of a bitch.”
He shrugged a little and picked up his own plate. “My mother is actually quite lovely. My cousins, on the other hand, can be a bit rough around the edges. Did they frighten you? I know you don’t like to be around men you don’t know.”
Because even the men she’d known as a teen had been violent and aggressive. Because her own father had beaten her so badly she still couldn’t walk straight. “I wasn’t afraid of them.”
“Why? They can be aggressive around a woman.”
“I wasn’t afraid because you were here.” The words were out of her mouth before she could think to call them back.
In a graceful move, he seated himself and pulled a napkin over his lap. His blue eyes looked infinitely warm as he glanced her way. “They would never hurt you. My cousins are good men. They’re solid. But you should know I wouldn’t let anyone hurt you. Anyone.”
Except himself. He wouldn’t mean to hurt her, but there was no way a man as beautiful and blessed as Simon Weston stayed with someone as cursed as Chelsea for long. He liked to play the white knight. Once he realized she wasn’t worth saving, he would move on to the next wounded girl he found. She couldn’t live in his world. He was the second son of a duke. She was still wanted by several governments and numerous criminal organizations.
It was better to keep focused on work. “Let’s talk about how you can help me. You bought me a couple of days. I appreciate that. I just need to keep a low profile.”
He shook his head shortly. “No. We don’t have anything to talk about until we agree upon your contract. We can discuss it after dinner. You’re a bit shaky. I won’t go into it until you’ve got your strength back.”
She didn’t need her strength to find out how much he was going to charge her. “Don’t you mean your contract? Let’s have it. How much do you charge by the hour?” It couldn’t be too much more than what Ian charged. After all, she was only getting Simon and Ian would bring an entire team with him. He would also bring his own personality, which included assholiness and more sarcasm than she could handle in a single day. And Charlotte. Ian would bring Charlotte. A few months into standing on her own two feet for the first time and Chelsea was in serious trouble. If she wasn’t careful she would find herself living with Ian and Charlotte, and both she and Satan wanted to avoid that at all costs.
“No, I was talking about the BDSM contract we’re going to sign.” Simon dropped the words casually, and for the second time that day, Chelsea felt like she had a bomb in her lap just waiting to go off.
She nearly lost her spoon. “What?”
He was perfectly calm. “That’s my requirement for protecting you. I don’t want money. You’ll sign a contract making me your Master or I can call your brother-in-law back. How is the broccoli beef? I’ve never tried it before. Would you like some wine?”
She nodded numbly. She was going to need it.
Copyright Lexi Blake 2014