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Masters and Mercenaries, Book 16

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About the book

Remy Guidry doesn’t do relationships. He tried the marriage thing once, back in Louisiana, and learned the hard way that all he really needs in life is a cold beer, some good friends, and the occasional hookup. His job as a bodyguard with McKay-Taggart gives him purpose and lovely perks, like access to Sanctum. The last thing he needs in his life is a woman with stars in her eyes and babies in her future. 

Lisa Daley’s life is going in the right direction. She has graduated from college after years of putting herself through school. She’s got a new job at an accounting firm and she’s finished her Sanctum training. Finally on her own and having fun, her life seems pretty perfect. Except she’s lonely and the one man she wants won’t give her a second look.

There is one other little glitch. Apparently, her new firm is really a front for the mob and now they want her dead. Assassins can really ruin a fun girls’ night out. Suddenly strapped to the very same six-foot-five-inch hunk of a bodyguard who makes her heart pound, Lisa can’t decide if this situation is a blessing or a curse.

As the mob closes in, Remy takes his tempting new charge back to the safest place he knows—his home in the bayou. Surrounded by his past, he can’t help wondering if Lisa is his future. To answer that question, he just has to keep her alive.


Chapter One

Dallas, TX

One month earlier

Remy Guidry sat back in the comfortable chair he’d claimed only moments ago in the main conference room of McKay-Taggart. He wasn’t sure why they were having this very normal weekly briefing in the main office instead of their man cave, but when the big guy called, he moved his team into place—whether that meant moving them into sniper positions or hauling them up a floor and making sure they weren’t in work-out clothes.

His team. It was weird to think of them that way and to think about a potential future where they weren’t around. He would miss them. He hadn’t expected that when he’d taken the job a few years ago. He’d merely planned to use this time to his betterment. McKay-Taggart paid well and he didn’t spend much. He’d figured a few years of putting his body on the line and he could buy his cousin’s bar back in Papillon. It was a piece-of-shit nothing hole-in-the-wall, but once it had been Remy’s whole damn world, that bar. He’d grown up watching his pop-pop mix drinks and sell bait out the back. He would sit on that dock and watch the boats go by and wonder when it would be him on that boat, heading out.

Now all he wanted to do was go home.

Except he’d been surprised to find a group of friends here. He hadn’t meant to make them. They’d been like barnacles, slow growing and when not cut off, somehow becoming a part of him.

“Any idea why we’re here?” Declan asked, sitting his massive frame in one of the chairs. “New assignments?”

Declan was one of those barnacles. Remy was pretty sure the ex-Air Force pararescue hadn’t meant to find a bunch of brothers either. Of all Remy’s men, Dec was the most secretive, the one he worried about. There was something…almost unworldly about the man. Like the stories his mom-mom would tell about the old ones still walking the earth. He came from a pretty crazy bunch of people, but Declan sometimes made him wonder if his mom-mom hadn’t been right. “Big Tag sent me a nice note stating the whole group needed to be here at ten and ready for a meeting.”

Riley Blade and Shane Landon strode in, both looking tan and fit from their time in LA. Dec had been on assignment with them, but somehow he’d managed to come back without a tan. Apparently when he hadn’t been watching over superstar Joshua Hunt and getting his ass shot at, he’d stayed in his room, avoiding the beauty of Malibu.

“Nice note? Then it wasn’t Tag, this is a trap, and we’re all about to be brutally murdered,” Riley said.

“What did it actually say?” Shane asked with a sort of detached curiosity.

“It said get the full douche down to the real world because I can’t take clients into that sweat-soaked man cave you call an office. And dress like men.” That was the boss.

Wade strode in, his boots ringing along the hardwood floors. “How exactly do we not dress like men, and I take offense to the group of us being described as a douche. What the hell does he mean by that?”

“It’s like a gaggle of geese,” Shane offered. “Or a pack of wolves.”

“Or a murder of crows,” Declan continued, his eyes dark. “Which is what I think about doing to Tag every time he calls us the full douche. I’m not a douche. Blade’s a douche, but I’m not.”

Riley sent Dec his happy middle finger. “Fuck you and your sad-sack jeans. Did anyone tell you the nineties are over?”

Sometimes they were a bit like bickering siblings, their camaraderie manifesting itself in manly insults and the rare but always fun blowup that resulted in wagering, someone getting his ass kicked, and then beers all around. Big Tag was an asshole, but he understood his employees. When he’d given the bodyguards their own office, he’d installed both a gym and a fridge that he’d filled with beer.

It wasn’t the worst way to live, though sometimes it felt like he’d never actually left the military.

A vision of himself behind the bar, mixing drinks and shooting the shit the way his pop-pop used to came over him. It was a dream he’d started having years before when he’d spent his days killing and surviving. In his dreams he would see that bar and know it was his place in the world. Lately, the dream had changed slightly, merging with one he’d had since he was a teen first interested in the ladies. He was still behind the bar, but the door to the patio would open, the late evening sun illuminating the woman walking through it.

His woman. He knew that because his dream self damn near salivated at the sight of her, but she was a shadowy figure, her face always too backlit to make out her features.

How his friends and coworkers would laugh to find out Romeo Remy dreamed about his future wife. Which was precisely why he wasn’t telling anyone about it. He’d learned long ago to keep those weird dreams he sometimes had to himself.

Shane was chuckling. “You have to admit you’re a little on the Hollywood side, my man. You fit right in with that crowd in LA. I think that’s why Joshua Hunt didn’t like you. You’re almost as pretty as he is.”

“I admit to nothing but having a small amount of taste, and Hunt didn’t like me because I was more popular at his club than he was,” Riley replied. “And Tag would call us douches even if we were dressed like hoboes. He’s wired that way. From him, it’s almost affection.”

Declan shrugged one big shoulder. “Better than a hug.”

Wade took the seat closest to Remy and leaned over. “Hey, what was all that yelling about this morning? Sounded like a problem from home, man.”

Remy frowned. He’d shut the door the minute he’d realized it had been his cousin calling. Apparently the solid wood door hadn’t been thick enough to contain his rage. “Why do you think it was personal?”

“You started yelling in French,” Wade pointed out. “You don’t speak French unless someone calls you from home or Charlotte needs help ordering from the Paris Chanel store. Since Big Tag isn’t screaming about how broke he’s going to be, I assumed it was the former. Is it about the bar? Did he up the damn price again?”

The others had stopped their argument over whether or not Riley’s designer clothes made him less manly and all heads turned to him.

“He upped the price again?” Shane asked. “Because you’re already paying too much for that market.”

“Way too much.” Riley and Shane had done some investigating and concluded that his cousin Jean-Claude was an asshole of the highest order.

Remy could have told him that. “He didn’t up the price.” It was much worse. “He wants it all in cash in six weeks or he’s going to sell out to a land developer who’s been looking at our town. If the wharf goes, the town goes. No more shrimpers. No more small businesses. If he sells our land, the rest will have to sell, too. The whole town depends on having access to the water. If Jean-Claude sells the land, they’ll immediately oust everyone who rents a slip in our marina. They’ll evict the mechanic shop connected to the wharf and our entire way of making a living goes away. Unless we want to work in the big resort he’s planning, we’ll have to move. Most of those families have lived on that bayou for a hundred years, some more.”

“How much?” Dec asked, his voice tight.

Remy shook his head because it didn’t matter.

Dec gave him one of those looks that told Remy he could tell him or Dec would find out himself. “How much?”

Remy sighed and sat back. “I’m seventy thousand short. And that’s seventy thousand short of merely qualifying for the loan. I thought I would have another two years, but my time’s run out.”

Wade held up a hand.

Remy knew exactly what he would say. “And no. Killing Jean-Claude wouldn’t help anything. The wharf would go to a distant cousin, who’s even greedier than he is. And no. Killing Jean-Claude and his cousin won’t fix it because he’s got a large family and they would keep coming.”

“I’m only saying that between the five of us, we can kill a lot of people,” Shane said.

“I can make a chart,” Riley offered. “I’m a very organized killer.”

“I appreciate it, but no.” He was done killing, tired of all the blood on his hands. “I’m going to talk to the bank again. The last time I talked to them, the real estate boom hadn’t started. Maybe they’ll up the property value of my house.” His rundown two-bedroom in a bad part of town. “No matter what, I’m going to find a way.”

Whatever arguments might have come out of his teammates’ mouths were silenced by the door opening and Big Tag walking in, his gorgeous wife, Charlotte, right behind him. Oddly enough, of the two, Charlotte scared him more than the former CIA assassin. Charlotte was utterly ruthless and did not mind leaving a man with two hand grenades waiting to go off while she sashayed away to have fun.

The hand grenades had been her twin daughters and yes, the “fun” might have been giving birth to baby number three. He prayed those two were done gifting the world with their spawn because he wasn’t sure he could handle those two baby girls again. Not without a wife.

But they had gotten him thinking. They were stinky but awfully sweet. After he’d calmed down and accepted that he had to take care of two little girls and a dog who looked like he could kill but peed whenever new people showed up, he’d settled in. He’d found some cartoons and the girls had finally climbed up onto his lap and watched. After a while they’d fallen asleep and he’d studied them. They were cute and sweet and cuddled up like kittens looking for warmth. They were trusting in a way no adult could be. He kind of wondered what it would be like to have one of his own.

Big Tag had a future right there in those tiny things.

“Welcome to the civilized world,” Taggart said, taking his place at the head of the table. “Riley, Dec, and Shane, welcome back from La-La Land. Nice job. The client didn’t die and you managed to blow up a whole Mexican drug cartel and out a dirty CIA agent in the process.”

“Not that it made him lose his job,” Dec pointed out.

“But we know he’s bad,” Tag replied.

A whole lot had gone down in LA and it had a major effect on the London office, which suddenly found itself down a bunch of memory-blank soldiers it had been hiding and one operative who was now marrying a Hollywood star.

Charlotte sat down across from her husband, her strawberry blonde hair upswept in a professional bun. It made him wonder briefly how she’d worn her hair when she’d been a Russian mob assassin. She seemed to relish taking care of the day-to-day business of running McKay-Taggart. She pushed three envelopes out to each of the men who’d worked the LA job. “I think you’ll find that Josh and Kayla were happy with your services and with helping train a new set of bodyguards for when they travel. They wanted to give you all something to show their appreciation.”

From the way Shane’s eyes widened, that must be a mighty big check. Sometimes the bonuses on certain jobs could be outstanding.

Damn, but he needed one of those jobs. He’d sent the others on the LA job because he’d wanted to stay close to home. Now he might be losing home altogether. But he wasn’t about to show that fear here in the office. They had plenty of other things to worry about. “Do we have an update on the situation with Sadie?”

Sadie Jennings was Grace Taggart’s niece, and for the last couple of years she’d taken her aunt’s place as the office receptionist. She was a ball of sunshine in everyone’s day, always willing to help out even in the dangerous stuff.

He was worried that level of loyalty was going to get the young woman hurt or even killed because a few weeks before, she’d been kidnapped. She was rescued, but one of the kidnappers got away and according to all the information they had, he was still after Sadie.

“Chase is keeping her hidden,” Ian said, his voice grim. “But Jonathan Jones was recently sighted in the San Antonio area. Sean’s driving down to Fort Hood for an update and to check in on her. Apparently she’s got a bunch of friends down there, and some of them are military. He trusts them, but she’s not safe until Jonathan is dealt with.”

“Sadie is quite smart and capable,” Charlotte said in a tone that made it obvious this wasn’t the first time they’d talked about this issue. “She’ll stay put until we are able to find the asshole.”

Ian raised a hand as if to stave off the inevitable argument. “We’ll find him. On to other things… Riley, you wanted some time off and I’m giving it to you. Go and have fun, but keep your phone on. If there’s an emergency, I might have to call you back.”

Remy got the meaning behind those words. After the LA mission, they didn’t know what would happen with the Lost Boys. If the Agency came after them, it would be all hands on deck, and they might be going up against the CIA.

Riley nodded. “You need me, call, boss. I’ll be there. But until then, I’m going to…rest for a while.”

Yeah. Remy got those words, too. Riley would crawl into bed with a woman or two and not get out for a good long time. Exactly what he himself would do if he could. Find a good-time girl. One who didn’t want anything more than a couple of orgasms because that was exactly all he had to give any woman at this point.

“Shane, your request to stay in Dallas for a while has been approved,” Charlotte said with a smile. “We’ve got a couple of short-term jobs around town so you can settle into the new place. Is it true you’ve got an outdoor shower?”

Shane smiled, the satisfaction clear on his face. “Country living with all the joys of the city. Best of both worlds. I can’t wait to have my first barbecue.”

“That leaves us with an assignment in South America. It’s on the dangerous side and I don’t know if we should take this one at all,” Ian said, opening the folder in front of him. “It’s a bodyguard assignment to a diplomat going to speak in Argentina, but I’m not sure about him.”

“I’ll take it,” Declan said.

“I think we should talk about it, but if we decide to move forward, Wade should take this one,” Charlotte said, starting to push the folder Wade’s way.

A big hand came out, slamming over the folder and pulling it toward him like it was prey being dragged back into some predator’s cave. Declan’s. “I’ll take this one.”

A brow rose over Tag’s eyes. “Damn it, Dec, you just got back from a long-term assignment and quite frankly you look like shit. Have you been sleeping at all?”

“I sleep fine and this one is mine.” Declan didn’t look up, merely opened the folder and started reading.

“I can’t take it because I have a case of my own.” Wade rode into the rescue like the cowboy he was. “I have a friend in town and he’s asked me to watch after a lady from his hometown. Emily Young.”

“The country singer?” Tag asked. “The one who played Top a while back?”

Wade nodded. “She’s doing a full tour this time and she’s attracted some crazies. She needs a full-time bodyguard. I head out to Houston tomorrow to join the tour. I hope it’s all right. Remy approved it.”

“We’ve all had some personal stuff we have to do,” Remy replied. “I’ll stay here and back up Shane and run the office.”

“No, you won’t,” Charlotte said with a wry smile. “We have a job and it looks like you’re the only one who can do it. This is why we called the meeting up here. We need you to meet with a client who’s also a bit like family. I thought we could let them interview you and Declan to see who would work for them, but it looks like you get the job by default.” She waved to someone outside the conference room. “Excellent. Here they are.”

He glanced up but couldn’t see who she was waving at. Something raced along his spine, some small tendril of instinct that told him this was important. He didn’t have the pure sight the way his great grandmother had, but he knew when change was coming and it was about to walk right through that door. Whatever this job was, it would be meaningful. To him? To the company? He couldn’t be sure, but change was coming.

“The rest of the douche is dismissed,” Tag said, getting up to open the door.

His coworkers all grumbled as they left, showing Big Tag how they felt, but in semi-polite ways as there were three women and two men waiting there in the lobby.

Remy frowned because he knew that group. They played at Sanctum, the BDSM club started by the founding members of McKay-Taggart. Well, four of them did. Will and Bridget Daley walked through first, Bridget looking pretty in her jeans and cotton top that couldn’t hide her second pregnancy. Mitch Bradford was wearing his customary suit and his sweet wife, Laurel, looked like she’d come straight from her office. Mitch was McKay-Taggart’s go-to lawyer and Daley’s best friend.

The third woman was one he hadn’t seen at the club before, but he could bet who she was. Lila Daley. He knew that because she looked a lot like her sisters—Laurel and Lisa.

Lisa. Freaking Lisa Daley, with the doe eyes and the slender feminine curves that made his mouth water every time she walked into a room. Lisa Daley, the good girl he couldn’t have because he didn’t do good girls.

At least she wasn’t here. He got antsy when she was in the room. Sometimes he actually walked out of a room when she walked in because he knew if he didn’t he would do something incredibly stupid like ask her to play or worse, ask her out on a real date.

He didn’t date. He didn’t take a sweet lady out to the movies and hold her hand and share popcorn with her and drop her at her door with nothing more than a kiss. Nope. He went to bars and picked up women who wanted a hot night of fucking. Or negotiated with submissives who knew the score.

But not with her. Never with her. The one time she’d asked, he’d practically run the other way.

I’m not interested.

He’d seen the hurt on that pretty face before he’d turned and walked away. The fact that she could be hurt made it plain she wasn’t for him.

“Thanks for meeting with us on such short notice,” Will Daley said as he settled his wife into a chair. The neurosurgeon looked worried, his eyes a bit bloodshot, as though he hadn’t been sleeping. “We were all shocked at what happened. We thought this damn nightmare was over.”

Remy sat up. What had happened? He liked the Daley family, his unwanted attraction to Lisa aside. Actually, her family was one of the reasons he stayed far away from the young woman. Lisa came from a family of high-powered doctors and nurses. Her brother-in-law was a top-tier lawyer and her sister-in-law a best-selling author. Lisa herself had a master’s degree and would likely marry someone important.

What she wouldn’t do was ever give up her comfortable life in the city to marry an ex-soldier who wanted nothing more than to tend bar and keep his hole-in-the-wall small town together. She would be horrified by where he came from, likely disdainful of the town’s residents. Lisa was a big-city lady who wouldn’t be able to handle his low-class baggage.

It didn’t stop him from thinking of her.

“I knew it could happen,” Bridget said. “I told you that judge is on the take. I can see it in his eyes. They’re all in on it.”

“Pregnancy makes you paranoid, baby,” Will said, pulling her hand to his mouth for a kiss. “Remember when we had Brendon and you were absolutely sure the woman who had moved in across from us was working for Russian intelligence?”

“She worked for the IRS,” Bridget shot back. “That’s even worse. I bet she went through our trash looking for receipts.”

Lila sighed as though this was a long-fought argument. “We don’t know that the judge is on the take. We do know that jerk has a good lawyer.”

Mitch shook his head. “Nah, that asshole got lucky. He should have found that problem in the beginning. He stumbled on it during cross.”

“What’s going on?” If Remy let them go on, they would start arguing among themselves and it would take forever to get to the point. “Who’s in jail?”

“The problem is who got out of jail,” Laurel replied, a frown on her face. “Have you been following the Jimmy Vallon case?”

“No,” Remy admitted. It wasn’t too surprising. Unless it was a sports score, he didn’t follow the news. “What’s it about?”

“Jimmy Vallon owns the largest valet service in the DFW area. He supplies restaurants and entertainment venues all over the Metroplex. About a year ago, he hired a new accountant who quickly figured out he was using some shady practices with his cash flow. She was smart enough to ask an expert and then went straight to the police to turn her boss in. Turns out Vallon was laundering money for a local drug distributor,” Mitch explained. “So the police arrested him and up until yesterday he was absolutely going to be convicted and looking forward to doing some serious time. Then at the last moment, his attorney got lucky. He got one of the cops on the scene to admit to breaking chain of custody. Vallon kept a second set of books all by hand that the accountant discovered. Turns out there’s about six hours missing between when they took the books from Vallon’s office and when they were finally logged in at the police station. At some point in time two pages were pulled out and went missing. The main evidence was thrown out and a mistrial was called.”

Remy wasn’t sure where he fit into this, or the Daleys for that matter. “You’re looking for an investigator? You want me to figure out what happened to the books? I’m not sure that’s going to help anything at this point. Once evidence is thrown out, it’s out.”

Even he knew that much.

“We can’t get the police to put her in protective custody because they don’t have the resources. The truth is the prosecutor isn’t even sure if he wants to retry the case,” Will admitted.

“Because he’s involved,” Bridget insisted. “Because he’s the one who set this whole thing up so Vallon doesn’t do any time. Politicians. They’re all on the take.”

Her? Will had mentioned a “her.” Remy put up a hand, trying to stop the argument. “Who is this mysterious accountant? I assume we’re talking about the accountant because that’s the only person who might be able to testify against Vallon.”

He had a bad feeling about this. Lisa Daley had some kind of business degree. Surely she hadn’t fallen into a job that put her firmly in some goddamn mobster’s sights.

“Lisa,” Laurel said, her face flushing with obvious emotion. “My sister was Vallon’s accountant. It was her first job straight out of grad school. None of us can believe it. It’s such a mess. She’s the one who turned him in and now she’s the only witness to his crimes.”

He shook his head, his brain racing to try to find some way out of the trap he’d been placed in. None of the others could take on a job like this. It wouldn’t be fair to put them on something this time-consuming after they’d just gotten back. But he sure as hell couldn’t do it. Watching Lisa Daley every single day might drive him crazy. “Why would they come after her? She’s not a serious danger to Vallon. They would need the accounting books. Juries want to see the actual evidence, not some hearsay.”

“It wouldn’t be hearsay. She has actual knowledge of the crime. I assure you she can testify.” Mitch leaned forward. “And she might be much more effective than a bunch of books. Juries are funny things. They would absolutely rather listen to someone interesting speak about a crime than study boring numbers. Lisa is now considered a person of knowledge in the case. She’s the only one who can testify as to what she saw in those books. The jury will either believe her or they won’t. The trouble honestly isn’t Vallon himself. Vallon’s not violent.”

Remy knew exactly what the problem was. “Nonviolent men don’t do well in prison, and that means he’s got plenty of incentive to talk about who he was laundering that money for. And Lisa is the only one who can send him there.”

“My sister has an incredible memory for numbers,” Lila explained. “She always has. I’m worried that somewhere in that big brain of hers is an account number that could potentially lead to a very bad man, but she won’t listen to any of us. She won’t go into hiding.”

“Won’t?” He was surprised at the bolt of pure panic that went through him. She was walking around out in the world in her designer shoes, her expensive handbag a target that said “please murder me” to all the happy mobsters. “Because you know you can lock her up. There’s not a damn thing she can do about it if you do it right.”

Will’s jaw tightened. “She would never forgive me.”

Laurel put a hand on her brother’s arm, lending him her support. “Lisa can’t stand to be locked in. She can lock her doors all right, but she has to know she’ll be able to get out. It’s a phobia from childhood. We asked about police custody, but she fought that the first time and this time around they won’t consider it because of budget constraints.”

“If she’s in danger, lock her away,” Remy insisted. Phobia or not, Lisa was being reckless with her life. “If she’s not smart enough to know it’s for her own good, then take her safety into your own hands. It’s as simple as that.”

“Remy, as much as I tend to agree with you, these are our clients and we need to listen to what they want,” Big Tag said quietly.

“Not when what they want will get Lisa killed,” he shot back.

Will stood up, his face flushed. “Do you think I like this? I don’t. I hate this. I’m worried about her every minute of every day, but I can’t and won’t betray her like that. You can’t know what she’s gone through and I’m damn sure not going to tell you because it’s obvious you’re smarter than the rest of us and nothing is going to change your mind.”

Oh, that man was on the edge. Remy kept his voice as calm and even as possible. He didn’t need to inject more emotion into the situation, but he did want to point out some logic. “Not at all. I’m not trying to be arrogant. You came here to ask me to do a job. Well, I’m giving you sound advice from someone who knows how to protect other people. There’s a time you have to step up and be the head of your family, and that means making the hard choices.”

Sometimes those hard choices put family members on opposite sides, but they had to be made. Remy was sure the hardest one Will Daley had ever made was to choose which expensive college he would go to. Oh, in the back of his head, he remembered some conversation he’d once had with Laurel about a trailer they’d lived in when they were kids, but it was clear that family’s fortunes had turned and probably quickly since they all had impeccable manners and dressed like they only shopped at designer stores.

Bridget Daley’s eyes narrowed. “Really? You think my husband has never had to make hard choices? You know what, Guidry? Fuck you. I love my sister-in-law so much I was willing to offer your ass a hundred grand to protect her while giving her the freedom she needs. Somehow I think I can find someone better than you.” She turned to Taggart. “I want someone else. Someone who’s not an asshole.”

He’d forgotten that sweet-looking woman had some serious claws on her.

She also had serious cash. The Daleys all did.

A hundred thousand. One hundred fucking thousand dollars.

And that money was about to walk out the door.

Not to mention the fact that he didn’t like the idea of some other man watching over Lisa Daley.

Taggart grimaced. “Assholes are all I have. It’s kind of how they end up falling into the job.”

“Then get me another asshole,” Bridget insisted. “A smarter asshole.”

“Look, Mrs. Daley, I’m sorry I offended.” He had to fix this and fast. He’d been rude. He was almost never rude, but the idea of Daley letting his sister run around on her own because he was afraid she’d be mad at him got his back up. Someone needed to take that woman in hand.

She was already standing, but Laurel stood up beside her.

“Bridget, we talked about this. I want Remy to protect Lisa. He’s good. I should know,” Laurel said. “He watched over me. He’s excellent at his job. I wouldn’t have known he was watching me at all if Mitch hadn’t been an overly possessive asshole.”

“Hey,” Mitch started and then kind of sighed and sat back down. “Fine. I can’t help it. And I vote we keep Remy. He did do a good job. He protected Laurel even from me, but this is going to be a different kind of job. He can’t watch her from afar twenty-four seven. He needs to be close.”

“I would agree that this needs to be a close-cover assignment,” Big Tag replied. “Hence the rather large amount the Daleys are willing to pay.”

“But if she thinks you’re there to protect her, she’ll balk at the idea.” Lila pulled her sweater around her like a shield, and Remy wondered what Lisa’s stubbornness was costing her family. Not a one of them looked like they’d had a decent sleep recently.

He added selfishness to his long list of reasons to avoid Lisa.

Except it looked like he wouldn’t be able to avoid her for much longer. Not if he wanted to save his hometown and solidify his future.

Besides, the fact that she was selfish enough to cause this much turmoil meant maybe he’d been wrong about her. Maybe she wasn’t as sweet as she seemed and maybe that hurt he’d seen on her face that day had been shock at not getting her way. If she was some spoiled princess, then as long as he played it right, she would be fair game.

Close cover. Yeah, he might be able to handle that just fine. The woman had plagued his dreams at times. It might be good to get her out of his system before he walked off into the sunset.

“Can we find a female operative? One who could move into her apartment building and become her friend? What about that Kayla person?” Bridget asked. “She’s cool and she’s not an asshole. Didn’t she watch over Mia Taggart while Case was being a massive ass? I don’t know that I want to give this guy my hard-earned cash.”

“You earned that cash by writing about triple penetration,” Tag shot back.

“Do you know how hard it is to make that shit romantic?” Bridget turned on the boss. “Do you have any idea how difficult it is to make the act of lubricating various body parts sexy? I am a motherfucking genius.”

“Yes, you do it so well,” Charlotte soothed. “Bridget, Remy is our best bet and I happen to know that the apartment across from Lisa’s opened up last week. I’ve already rented it. It will keep him close to her and her building has security cameras. He can cut into the feed and follow her when she goes out. We also installed her security system, so he would have easy access to that. It’s a perfect setup. He can track her twenty-four seven.”

He might have to be with her for weeks. Months, perhaps. That could be a problem. “I need the money upfront.”

This kind of assignment would be split between McKay-Taggart and the bodyguard. It wouldn’t give him everything he needed, but he could sell his house and that should put him over the top. He would give his cousin the money and his mom and siblings could take over running the place until after the job was done. Well, his sister could. Zep would just as likely drink the bar dry and try to sleep with every woman who walked in.

Now it was Will who looked at him suspiciously. “Why?”

“He’s not trying to screw you,” Big Tag assured him. “He needs the money upfront. He’s trying to save his family business. Did your asshole cousin change the deadline?”

Remy frowned. “How did you know?”

Big Tag shrugged negligently. “I know everything. Also, I was downstairs earlier and speak some French.” He turned to Will. “He’s good for the job. He’ll do it doggedly and he won’t let anyone get close to her. And if it comes down to it, he’ll be the bad guy. You know as well as I do she might need to be protected in a way she won’t like. If Remy makes the call to put her in protective custody, he’ll be the one who hurt her, not you. Your hands will be perfectly clean and you can throw in a couple of punches when you ride in to save her after she’s safe. It’s the perfect solution to your problem.”

“She won’t lose her family if things get rough,” Charlotte promised. “She’ll still trust you. She won’t trust him, but that’s all right because they don’t have a relationship.”

He would be the bad guy if it came down to it. It wasn’t like he hadn’t played that role before. He nodded Charlotte’s way. “We’re not even friends. I’ve seen her at the club, but we’ve never played. We’ve said maybe twenty words to each other.”

Hello, Sir. I was hoping we could sit and talk and maybe discuss a scene between us.

So sweet and polite that his dick had hurt as he’d turned away. But he’d done it. And he would do it again. He would walk away from her at the end of this and he wouldn’t look back.

“All right,” Will said. “We understand this could be a long-term assignment. This is a twenty-four seven thing. I expect you to eat, breathe, and sleep this job for the next eight weeks. That’s how long we think they’ll take to make the decision whether or not they’re going to retry Vallon. If it goes past that, we’ll renegotiate. I’ll have Moneybags here write a check and Taggart can pay you upfront if he wants to.”

“And if she dies, I’ll kill you myself,” Bridget promised, her hand resting on her swollen belly as if the child she carried agreed with her.

“I’ll do my best and I’ll get started right away,” Remy promised. “If she asks, I’ll explain to her I’m putting my house up for sale and I need a place to stay.”

It wasn’t a lie. His house would be on the market, so it would be perfect to have a place to hang while the real estate ladies did their thing.

“So you’ll do it?” Laurel asked, her eyes wide and pleading. Pleading for him to save her sister. He remembered how kind she’d been to him when she’d been his client. She never complained, included him in meals when she could, was always the perfect lady. Lovely manners, well-educated.

Very much like her sister, though he doubted Laurel would ever put her family through what Lisa was. Laurel Daley Bradford would have locked herself away in a heartbeat if it saved her family a moment’s despair.

“Yeah, I’ll do it. I promise I’ll make sure no one gets close to her.” No one but him. He wouldn’t go into this planning to jump into her bed, but if it came up, well, he would be open and honest with her and if she still let him in, it wasn’t like the wolf to leave the henhouse untouched.

As Charlotte started talking about the basic contract, Remy sat back and hoped his new client had better sense than he did.

Copyright 2018 Lexi Blake