Forbidden Stranger

Forbidden Stranger

by Megan Hart

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Overview

A female bodyguard with enhanced abilities. A billionaire playboy committed to destroying people like her. A romance they didn’t expect…

Nina Bronson and Ewan Donahue have put their love to its limits. To Ewan, she’s the only woman he wants to be with for the rest of his life. To Nina, whose memories have been ripped out of her, Ewan is her kind and generous boss who’s helping her recover after an accident she also can’t remember. The more time they spend together, the more she begins to feel for him, but Ewan knows the truth — she loved him once. As Ewan tries to do whatever it takes to get Nina back to herself without putting her in danger, the two of them have to build a brand new relationship from the ground up. Sometimes, a lie isn’t a betrayal, it’s a lifesaver. Can Nina forgive Ewan for not telling her the truth about why she lost so much of her memories, or are they doomed to never be together again?

Dive into Forbidden Stranger, the third book in this fantastic new series set in the near future from New York Times bestselling author Megan Hart!

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250119728
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 03/06/2018
Series: The Protector , #3
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 300
Sales rank: 565,118
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Megan Hart writes books. Some of them use a lot of bad words, but most of the other words are okay. She can’t live without music, the internet, or the ocean, but she and soda have achieved an amicable uncoupling. She can’t stand the feeling of corduroy or velvet, and modern art leaves her cold. She writes a little bit of everything from horror to romance, though she’s best known for writing erotic fiction that sometimes makes you cry.

Megan is the author of The Protector series, including Dangerous Promise, Wicked Attraction, and Forbidden Stranger.


Megan Hart writes books. Some of them use a lot of bad words, but most of the other words are okay. She can’t live without music, the internet, or the ocean, but she and soda have achieved an amicable uncoupling. She can’t stand the feeling of corduroy or velvet, and modern art leaves her cold. She writes a little bit of everything from horror to romance, though she’s best known for writing erotic fiction that sometimes makes you cry.

Megan is the author of The Protector novels, including Dangerous Promise, Wicked Attraction, and Forbidden Stranger.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

This was the wrong knife.

Nina Bronson studied the bin of root vegetables in front of her, along with the small paring knife she held in her right hand. It had gone dull already, or at least that's how it felt to her. Aggie Sheeran, the cook and housekeeper, had assured her that the knife was more than sharp enough for the job. Nina couldn't think of any reason why Aggie would lie to her, but she didn't quite believe her about the knife, either. Nina hefted it, uncertain what she was testing it for. Only knowing it didn't feel right in her hand. It wasn't heavy enough, not well balanced. Something. On a whim she tossed it in a circle to catch it again by the handle and looked up to see Aggie frowning at her.

"You'll cut your fingers off, you keep that up. And that look on your face. Be careful, it will stay that way, and then what will you do?" Aggie asked in her lilting accent as she waved her own, much larger and obviously sharper knife in Nina's direction. The older woman pushed a few strands of silver hair off her forehead with the back of her hand and blew out a soft breath, probably at the heat in the kitchen.

Nina wasn't bothered by the temperature, although Aggie had already complained several times about it, along with some envious comments about how lucky Nina was that she was never too hot or too cold. Aggie blamed it on her age, which always prompted Nina to remind Aggie that she wasn't old. It was an ongoing joke between them, but Nina didn't mention it now. She did chuckle, though, at the idea of her face staying in a twisted grimace. "It would hardly make a difference. It's not like I'm going to get by in the world based on my looks, but you never know when I might need to rely on my skills with a slasher."

She'd meant that she might need to take a job in a kitchen or something, but the look on Aggie's face put a frown on Nina's own. The older woman didn't like it when Nina made reference to her scars. Nina had forgotten that it upset her. Her frown deepened at the reminder of how precarious her ability to retain information had been since waking up from the accident she could also not recall.

"Sorry. I know you don't like it when I complain," Nina muttered as she picked up a turnip and tried to peel the waxy surface using the substandard knife. Her frustrated sigh slipped out before she could stop it, and she pressed her lips together to hold it back.

It doesn't do any good to let things like this bother you. The memories will come back, or they won't. Focus on moving forward.

The voice in Nina's head didn't sound like hers, yet it had the oddest feeling of familiarity, as though she were hearing herself through a recording. She wasn't sure she'd ever get used to it. In the first few days after she'd woken here, every part of her in agony and nothing but a black void where her memories ought to have been, she'd heard that voice a lot.

She'd fought it, along with everything and everyone else. Herself. The docs who came to help her. Even Aggie, Nina was ashamed to remember now. She couldn't remember fighting Ewan Donahue, her boss, but she was certain that she had. It had taken a few months, but it was easier now, dealing with the fact she couldn't remember anything about her life before the island. Before the accident. The voices had faded but not disappeared completely.

"I don't like it when you try to maim yourself helping me make stew, that's what I don't like," Aggie replied crisply. "And I've told you before, you don't need to bother yourself with this business. It's my job, not yours."

"Is that a nice way of letting me know I should get out of your space?" Nina asked, but with a laugh, because she knew it was the truth.

Aggie snorted a soft chuckle. "Why not go for a walk? The sun's out. It might even be warm enough, should you be smart enough to keep off the beach."

Nina set the turnip and the knife aside, but shook her head. "Why bother walking, if I'm not going to walk on the beach? What's the point of living on an island if you avoid the ocean?"

"I only meant that it's likely to freeze you, that's all. The wind ..." Aggie trailed off for a second, her expression suddenly unreadable, so that Nina had to tilt her head to study the other woman's face curiously. "Never mind. But fine, do as you please. Bundle up. I'll have hot tea waiting for you when you come back inside. And no rush on that. Dinner won't be ready for hours, and I don't need you underfoot. Go get the stink blown off you, as my old dad was fond of saying."

Nina didn't take offense at the scolding, motherly as it was. It was nice, actually, to feel as though someone was looking out for her. Her parents had died along with a single sister; she could not recall their names or faces, but she did remember that they'd existed. Nina told herself often that soon she would be able to recollect her entire life, and some days she was able to convince herself that would be true. Not today, though. She pushed away the melancholy. She should be appreciating Aggie's kindness, instead.

"You sure you don't need any help?" Nina ducked away from Aggie's knife-waving hand. "All right, all right, I get the hint. I'll get out of your way. Food's better when someone else cooks it, anyway!"

Nina grabbed a handful of peeled carrots from the bowl on the table and an enormous wool sweater off the hook by the garden door. Letting herself out, Nina took the porch's stone steps two at a time, regretting her exuberance for a moment at the bottom when her feet skidded on soft, wet grass and she nearly face-planted in the garden. She glanced over her shoulder, certain Aggie would be standing in the doorway with a fondly disapproving shake of her head, but the door had shut behind her. Jerome wasn't in the garden, either, probably because of the rain, so he hadn't witnessed her clumsiness. At least she was spared that indignity.

Nina was always tripping. Bumping into things, dropping them. All hands and two left feet, Aggie had said a few times, but not in a mean way. The older woman had suggested they wrap Nina in cotton or foam to help keep her safe, and while Nina had laughed at the joke, she'd held onto that for a long time as she worked hard to gain back the strength and coordination she knew, bone-deep, she'd once had. It was getting easier to find and keep her balance, but from nowhere she could discover herself spinning out of control, her feet betraying her by refusing to keep their place firmly on the ground. Sometimes it meant hitting a door frame with her shoulder on the way into a room. Sometimes it meant ending up on her hands and knees because she'd misstepped.

Taking a deep breath, Nina straightened. Steady, at least as much as she ever was. She'd dropped a few of the carrots, so now she kicked them into the grass. She pulled the sweater over her head. Her eyes closed for a few seconds as the rough wool came down over her face, turning the sunshine into shadows. Her heart had started beating too fast in anticipation of the pain the tumble down the stairs would have brought her, but it calmed now. She sipped at the air, smelling of wool and the faintest hint of cooking oil, garlic, roasting meat. Beneath all that, Nina caught hints of grass and freshly turned earth and flowers. Still fainter, the sea.

Her head popped out of the sweater's neckline and she drew in a long, slow breath of relief. She hated the sensation of disorienting imbalance she had not yet and never wanted to get used to. Doc Zulik had told her it would take time for her body to recover from her injuries, but he'd been unable to say how long it would take before she was fully recuperated. Every day she got better, stronger, had a little less pain, but even so, there were still times when she worried that she'd never be quite "right." Nina could not remember the details of the accident, but she was convinced that her body was never going to forget how it had felt to fall.

She was shiny fine now, though, upright and on both feet with the sweater covering her nearly to her knees and the remaining carrots crispy crunching between her teeth. She jogged through the back gate and down the path lined with crushed shells that step-backed down to the next set of steeply slanting rock stairs leading to the beach. She paused there, her hand on the railing gripping hard enough to hurt her fingers for a second before she forced herself to relax.

"You can do this," Nina breathed aloud. She lifted her chin and looked toward the gray strip of sea she could spot through the scrub of trees at the bottom of the stairs. "You're fine. You won't fall. Hold onto the railing. One step at a time. You'll be shiny fine."

She had to say it four or five times before she could even unkink her fingers from the railing long enough to slide them forward, but even then, she couldn't make her foot take that first step. Every time she did, the world threatened to kick out from beneath her, sending her tumbling arse-over-teakettle, down the staircase to land like a broken doll at the bottom. That's what her mind insisted on imagining, anyway.

The memory of pain is sometimes greater than anything else.

Again, that phantom voice that sounded like her own and yet ... not. Nina bit the tip of her tongue hard enough to squirt a couple of tears into her eyes. Sometimes, focusing on a deliberate pain helped her push away the undercurrent of anxiety that usually rose within her when she tried to find a memory. She took a deep breath, smelling the salt in the air. She craved the ocean. It would help her more than anything else. It would return her to herself, even if the feeling of knowing who she truly was would last only a few hours before the next time she'd be forced to admit her brain was still riddled with holes that might never be filled.

Nina wanted the sea, but she couldn't bring herself to take the stairs to get to it.

With a guttural rasp of self-loathing, Nina turned from the stairway and took off at a jog down a crushed shell path that led first away from the stairs, then along to the front of the house and the yard, angling toward the island's north slope and the sheer cliffs there. She'd never even dared to walk to the edge of them. That was where they'd told her she'd fallen. Instead, she cut to the right and down a sloping trail that became smoother the lower she got, until finally she was on the island's gravelly beach. Breathing hard from the exertion and the remnants of her panic at the stairs, Nina took her time heading for the water.

She couldn't specifically recall any trips she'd ever taken to the beach, although her mind insisted on filling in images of golden sand and clear blue waters and teeny tiny bikinis that would have shown off every single scar she had. She couldn't be sure they were her own actual memories and not something that had collected in her mind from old viddies or even reading books. That was the bitch of all this. She was centered in the world — she knew about pop culture and how money worked and what words meant and what places looked like that were not the island. But she could not, no matter how hard she tried, remember anything with herself actually taking part in it.

Nina moved toward the water, taking in more deep breaths of the tangy salt air. The wind whipped her dark hair out of the messy ponytail she'd tied it in, so that a tumble of curls tickled her nose and cheeks. It hit her barely at chin-length and never wanted to stay up in a tie. She wished she'd thought to grab a hat or scarf, not so much because of the chill but to keep her hair from tangling.

At the water's edge, she let the frothy waves nip at the toes of her boots. She had to be careful, watching for a longer reaching tongue of water that would try to get up around her ankles, but the tide was low now and the water as calm as it would ever get. No golden sand or clear blue water around this island. The sea here was dark green and almost constantly topped with whitecaps, and the beach crunched with broken shells and black gravelly stones. You wouldn't wear a bikini to lay out on this beach, even if you didn't have a body covered in scars.

From behind her, the low, soft thudding hum of an airtranspo turned her toward the cliffs. She couldn't see it, but she knew that sound by heart now. Mr. Donahue — Ewan, she reminded herself. He'd told her many times to call him by his first name. Aggie hadn't mentioned that their boss would be arriving tonight, but she might not have known. Or, if Aggie had said something about it in the morning, Nina thought with a grim press of her lips, it was possible Nina had forgotten it by the afternoon.

The water tossed up an unbroken shell at her boots right before she turned to head for the path back to the house. Nina stopped to grab it. The smooth, solid surface of it had been bleached white by time and the constant washing of the waves. She ran a finger over the ridged surface, wondering what sort of animal it had come from. It didn't feel like she couldn't remember. More like she'd simply never known, and why that should surprise her, Nina couldn't say. Surely she hadn't known everything in the world even before the accident had claimed so much of her mind.

She moved to tuck the shell into her pocket, but at the last minute her arm cocked to toss the shell back into the water. She didn't want to find it later and wonder where it had come from, because she'd forgotten finding it and picking it up. Better to get rid of it now, so it couldn't serve as a later reminder that her mind was a mess.

The whup-whup of the arriving airtranspo hadn't yet silenced. If she hurried, she could get to the house before Ewan did, so she set off. She didn't want to admit even to herself how much she wanted to see him. She ought to have been well beyond a silly, girlish crush, especially one on her boss. Just because he was as handsome as a viddy star and smart and funny and generous and he smelled good, and oh, damn, the way he looked in the workout shorts he sometimes wore when he went for a run ...

Ewan Donahue, the man who'd saved her life.

She did remember that. Not the details of it, although Aggie had told Nina the story, probably over and over, because Nina's memory was so broken she was sure she'd asked to hear it more than once. But feeling safe and protected and ... well, rescued. She could recall that with no problem. It was how she felt every time Ewan was around her.

Safe. Protected. Rescued.

"You're ridiculous," Nina said aloud, but under her breath and with a small smile at her own foolishness.

It didn't cause any harm to anyone if she thought about what it would be like to kiss Ewan Donahue on the mouth ... and a whole bunch of other places, too. As far as Nina could tell, the bro wasn't telepathic, so he'd never be able to read her mind and figure out her pervy little fantasies. There was nothing wrong with being a little silly, she told herself as she slowed on the path, now in sight of the house. Let's face it, there was sometimes little else to do on this island beyond entertaining herself with her own imagination. Nobody would ever have to know.

Least of all, Ewan Donahue.

CHAPTER 2

The ride to the island from the mainland took nearly an entire day by Ewan's private airtranspo, which was the only way to get there. Boats couldn't make it, not without capsizing or coming up hard on the enormous, jagged rocks that Ewan had paid to install around the entire island. The lighthouse he'd built sent out not only a broad beam of bright light to warn them away, but also it and all the boulders had been fitted with an electronic pulse warning system that was supposed to automatically interact with navigation and communication systems, turning any crafts, including public airtranspos, away well before they were in danger.

Ewan had bought the island, an uninhabited block of stone covered in broken shells, sand, and struggling sea grass, more than a decade before, but he hadn't done much with the property until right after Gray Tuesday. With the catastrophic data loss created by hackers, it had been easy to keep the island a secret from the groups determined to hunt him down. He'd always meant for the island home to be an escape, a safe house similar to his family's mountain cabin where he and Nina had gone to escape the death threats. It was where they'd fallen in love the first time, and where he'd discovered who exactly had been behind all the threats against him.

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "Forbidden Stranger"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Megan Hart.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Forbidden Stranger 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
etoile1996 More than 1 year ago
nina and ewan's story concludes in forbidden stranger and after all the angst and shocking twists it's totally well worth the wait. this time they must get to know each other again, since nina's mind has been reset one time too many. her fragile condition makes it difficult for ewan. he cannot be fully honest with nina, because her mind is not ready to process their tangled past. but keeping secrets is part of the reason they are in the predicament they are in. together they must find a way forward and see if they can recapture the love and intensity that inevitably builds between them. ewan still loves nina deeply, fiercely, and everything he does is for her. and when she understands that, she does appreciate it. but she also can't help feeling betrayed. especially when she realizes that part of ewan's way of protecting her has been by tracking her every move and setting her up with watchdogs. so much of the resolution depends on nina working through her anger and resentment of how she ended up where she is. luckily the attraction between these two is undeniable. and this time, there's no cliffhanger. **forbidden stranger will publish on march 6, 2018. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/st. martin's press (swerve) in exchange for my honest review.
ReadingLlama More than 1 year ago
This is the third and last book in the Protector series, and boy, is it a wild ride. This can’t be read as a standalone, and, fair warning, this review will contain spoilers for the first two books in the series. “It’s easy to blame someone else for the mistakes you chose to make, but it’s a lot harder to accept responsibility for them” When we last left off with Nina and Ewan, Nina had been rescued from bad guys, but had been reset so many times that her memory was pretty much gone, including any memories of Ewan. Even worse, they’ve discovered that part of the upgrade involuntarily installed in Nina by Ewan’s former partner includes self-termination programming. If she comes upon the wrong set of memories or triggers, she’ll attempt to kill herself, and since she’s a super soldier, there’s not much that could stop her from going through with it. Ewan’s already activated the programming once by trying to tell her who she was after they first rescued her, and she threw herself off a cliff. To stop the command, they had to reset her – erase her memories – multiple times, and Ewan fears that any trace of the woman he loved is gone. “Her sunny grin. It was the same and yet so different, the way Nina herself had changed, overall. Gone was the snark, along with her determination, focus, and stubbornness. She hadn’t become anything close to meek or mild, but she never argued with him the way she had before. She was polite, gently humorous, soft-spoken. Appreciative of the roof over her head and the care and keeping of her that she believed he provided because she’d been a valued employee and not because she was the woman he loved so desperately.” So, we start out the book with a very different Nina than the kick-ass super soldier I’ve come to know and love. She’s weak, still recovering from her near-death fall, and unaware of her enhancements. Her memory is still fractured – some days she can barely remember what she ate for breakfast, let alone anything before her “accident.” Because, that’s right! Ewan’s had to lie to her again, only telling her that she was badly injured while she was employed by him. This time, at least, I had to throw up my hands and agree that, yes, Ewan’s lies are finally justified (I cannot believe I’m admitting that). Telling her too much at once could literally lead to her death, so yeah, Ewan’s doing the best he can by her. He’s set her up on a tiny island with two caretakers, trying to keep her safe from anyone who might still be after her (though that’s unlikely) and avoid triggering any memories inadvertently. Though the doctors seem to think that she may recover some of her memories with time, Ewan’s resigned to the fact that, even if she does, she may not want to stay with him. Even so, he’s made plans to turn over the running of his corporation to his second in command so that he can retire to the island with Nina, so he can be close to the woman he still loves. “Ewan Donahue, the man who’d saved her life. She did remember that. Not the details of it, although Aggie had told Nina the story, probably over and over, because Nina’s memory was so broken she was sure she’d asked to hear it more than once. But feeling safe and protected and . . . well, rescued. She could recall that with no problem. It was how she felt every time Ewan was around her. Safe. Protected. Rescued.”