A sexy category romance from Entangled's Brazen imprint...
Why play nice when you can be naughty?
Jessica Bauer is aces when it comes to security, but the PR side? Not so much. Now she has a chance to take over Knight Securities?if she plays nice with the next client. Unfortunately, that client happens to be Declan McCabe. And it's too bad someone wants him dead, because after he broke her heart ten years ago, Jessica would have cheerfully murdered him herself.
Declan has taken his dad's not-so-reputable company and turned it around, and in the process, he's attracted the attention of some vicious killers. The only perk is being reunited with Jessica, who Declan still wants so much he can barely see straight. But Jessica has a plan of her own. She'll protect Declan. She'll have unbelievably hot sex with him. And when the job is finished, she'll move on. Except that this time, Declan isn't so willing to walk away...
About the Author
Nina Croft grew up in the north of England. After training as an accountant, she spent four years working as a volunteer in Zambia which left her with a love of the sun and a dislike of 9-5 work. She then spent a number of years mixing travel (whenever possible) with work (whenever necessary) but has now settled down to a life of writing and picking almonds on a remote farm in the mountains of southern Spain.
Nina's writing mixes romance with elements of the paranormal and science fiction.
Nina Croft grew up in the north of England. After training as an accountant, she spent four years working as a volunteer in Zambia, which left her with a love of the sun and a dislike of nine-to-five work. She's since then spent a number of years mixing travel (whenever possible) with work (whenever necessary), and has settled down to a life of writing and picking almonds on a remote farm in the mountains of southern Spain.
Nina writes all types of romance, often mixed with elements of the paranormal and science fiction.
Read an Excerpt
A Babysitting a Billionaire Novel
By Nina Croft, Candace Havens, Allison Collins
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2014 Nina Croft
All rights reserved.
Declan climbed out of his BMW sedan and handed the keys to the security guard. As he strolled toward the double glass doors of McCabe Industries, the now familiar sense of suffocation slowed his pace, and he had to fight the urge to turn around and run.
Christ, he was twenty-nine. Running away was hardly an option. Besides, where the hell would he run to? This was his life, and it was fucking perfect. He'd achieved everything he'd set out to. And yet each day it became harder to pretend he gave a shit.
He caught a reflection of himself in the glass doors. Dark suit, dark blue tie—like a million other businessmen—and the sense of suffocation tightened around him. As he forced it down, a loud crack rose above the rumble of traffic behind him, and the image shattered into a thousand pieces.
A second crack and some inner sense made him jerk to the side as something punched into him, whirling him around. He crashed to the concrete, his head hitting the curb, and everything went black.
When he came to, he was lying on his back, the smell of antiseptic thick in the air. He opened his eyes and stared at the white ceiling. He was pretty sure he was in a hospital bed, his brain was thumping, and his right arm was on fire. "Crap."
He rolled his head, blinked to clear his vision, and found his father standing beside him.
"What happened?" he asked.
"Someone shot you. And no prizes for guessing who or why."
His dad sounded pissed. Hardly surprising. Being shot was not a respectable pastime for a CEO.
Declan pushed himself up, flinching as pain raced from his shoulder to his wrist. He was still wearing his pants, but his chest was bare and a white bandage wrapped around his upper arm, blood already staining the cloth. "How bad is it? I have a meeting this afternoon."
"You've just been fucking shot. Forget about the fucking meeting." More than pissed.
Worried. He hadn't seen his dad this worried since Declan had nearly gone off the rails and fallen in love ten years ago.
"It's an important meeting."
"No. You're the only thing that's important right now. Jesus, you could have died."
It was true. Declan waited for some reaction to that—fear, anger ... but his mind remained numb. "Has news of the shooting gotten out? Has it affected the share price?"
"Will you stop thinking about the goddamn business? The goddamn business doesn't matter."
Declan raised an eyebrow. "You brought me up to think the business is the only thing that matters."
"Well, maybe I was wrong."
His eyes narrowed on his father. "Have they given me drugs? Am I hallucinating?" "Ha-ha." He shrugged. "But there's more to life ... shit. Let's not go into this now.
We'll talk later. When you're better."
Declan opened his mouth to say How about never? They didn't have those sorts of conversations, but the doctor came in at that moment and the next minutes were taken up with medical stuff.
His father had been acting strange since Declan had returned to the UK eleven months ago. This wasn't the first time he'd suggested that the business wasn't everything. Since when? His dad had even been trying his hand at matchmaking, pushing everything from corporate lawyers to exotic dancers under Declan's nose. It was surreal, and it was driving him crazy.
"How bad is it?" he asked the doctor as the bandage came off.
"Not bad, considering. The bullet went right through. I'm going to give you some stitches. Otherwise you have a bang on the head, and we'll keep you in overnight in case there's any concussion."
"I have a—"
"He'll stay," his dad interrupted. "If I have to tie him to the goddamned bed."
His father really was upset. Which was weird. Rory McCabe did not do upset. "I've arranged for Pete to stay here tonight," he said, a frown turning down the corners of his mouth. "He'll stand guard outside your room. Then tomorrow, we'll get you some bodyguards."
"You're joking, aren't you?"
"Do I look like I'm fucking joking?"
Declan glanced away from the doctor stitching the wound to where his father leaned against the wall arms folded across his chest. No, he didn't; he looked deadly serious. "I don't need a minder, dad."
"You're sitting in ER having a bullet wound stitched up. I say that pretty much means you do."
He did have a point, but somehow, Declan couldn't get worked up about it. "I knew the risks when I went to the police."
"And I warned you against it."
"Why? Were they old mates of yours?"
For a moment, his father's expression tightened, and then he grinned. "More likely old enemies. Let's just say that I know the type."
Yeah, his old dad would know the type. McCabe Industries was now totally legitimate, but it hadn't always been that way. His father's wealth had been built on illegal gambling, smuggling, and prostitution. That was all behind him now, but Declan was betting he still had a few dodgy contacts.
"And they will want to make an example of you," his dad continued. "I'm doing what I can, calling in some old debts, but until I clear this up, I want to make sure you're safe."
"And you intend to do that by getting me some goddamned babysitters?"
"I'll get in touch with some security firms, find out who's the best at this sort of thing, and hire you some protection."
Six months ago, Declan had come across evidence that one of his subsidiary companies was being used to launder money by a drug cartel. He'd gone to the police, and he'd been working with them since to uncover the assholes behind it. Now they'd succeeded, and those assholes were unhappy with Declan. They wanted revenge and to make an example of him, preferably before the case came to trial in three weeks' time.
And this morning, he'd been shot.
That didn't mean he had to have some crappy bodyguards shadowing his every movement. He glanced over to where his father still leaned against the wall. "I don't need a bodyguard. I'll be careful."
"You'll have them, or I'll tell your mother about this."
God forbid. He obviously meant business. Declan couldn't remember the last time his father and mother had even spoken. Maybe his sister's wedding five years ago? Even then, he suspected they'd managed to get through the proceedings without talking. Strangely, they had never divorced, but they also did their bests to never meet. As they lived on different sides of the Atlantic Ocean, it wasn't difficult. Declan knew all about the effectiveness of putting an ocean between you and someone you didn't want to encounter.
He gritted his teeth as the doctor made the final stitch, then released his breath. He wasn't a baby. And he didn't need babysitting. But maybe it wasn't worth arguing with his dad about the matter. He'd see these security people, pay their retainer, and then tell them to keep the hell away from him.
He had a business to run.
* * *
Somewhere along the way, Jessica Bauer had lost the ability—and if she was honest, the inclination—to play nice. While it had started out as a cross between payback and a defense mechanism, now it was second nature. She was the first to admit it; she was a badass with attitude issues.
But that didn't mean she couldn't change; she was trying. Her biggest problem with that was she liked being a badass. It beat the crap out of being a pathetic wimp with a broken heart.
She drummed her fingers on the tabletop as she contemplated the man sitting across from her. Phil ticked all the right boxes. A few years older than her, handsome in a blond, bland sort of way, and dressed in a dark blue suit, he looked what he was: a successful city accountant. A nice man. In fact, just what she'd asked for.
And she was bored out of her mind.
She took a large slug of red wine, hoping to numb her senses. Just a little while longer and she could go. Cross Phil off the list. He was her third offering from the dating agency and going just about as well as the first two. She was out of practice that was all.
She'd get better.
"Tell me about yourself, Jessica," Phil said when she remained silent. "What do you like to do in your spare time?" She opened her mouth to answer that she liked shooting guns and beating people up, when she was saved by the muted buzz of her cell phone. Caller ID showed it was her boss, Jake. Reprieve. Sometimes she just loved him.
Or she would if he'd give her the promotion she deserved.
"I know it's your day off," Jake said, "but we've had an emergency request and—"
"I'm on my way." She slipped the phone back in her pocket and faced the man opposite her. "Sorry, Phil. But duty calls."
"Oh." She'd thought his smile was a permanent fixture; now it faded. "You want to meet again?" he asked.
She reached across and patted his hand. "I'll give you a call." Or not. "Hey, what's happening?" she asked as she strolled into Jake's office ten minutes later.
He was lounging in his big chair, behind his big desk. Soon to be hers.
One of the toughest guys she had ever met, these days Jake had the look of a sleepy, sated tiger. But then he was a newlywed, married to Jess's best friend, Kim.
Recently, he'd decided he wanted to spend more time with his pregnant wife and was pulling back from some of the businesses, including stepping down as CEO of Knight Securities, one of the premier security firms in London. Jess had been his second in command for two years and worked for the company for the last five, ever since they'd both left the army. She was the obvious choice for the job, but Jake was balking at making the final decision.
She wanted this job. She deserved this job.
But the desk would have to go. Ever since Kim had told her that she and Jake had shagged on top of that particular piece of furniture, she'd never been able to look at it the same way. Now she shook her head to dispel the disturbing mental image.
"Is there a problem?" Jake asked.
"Just wondering if I should order myself a new desk. I know what's happened on top of that one and I'm not sure I want it in my office."
"Not your office yet." He sat forward and gave her a long, hard look. The sort of look that would have made her squirm ... had she been the squirmy type. "And if the report I got from the Jennings job is anything to go by, it never will be."
Bloody hell. She should have known Gary would tattle. He was the other person in the running for the CEO position. "Jennings is an asshole."
"Perhaps. But did you really have to tell him that?"
"It seemed like a good idea at the time." Along with informing him that if he touched her ass one more time she'd shoot him herself. Life was too short to take that sort of crap.
Jake studied her for what seemed an age, and she held herself very still. "Sit down, Jess."
"You do know that a big part of my job is keeping the clients happy?" he said.
She stiffened her spine and sat up straighter in the chair. This conversation wasn't heading anywhere good. "Yes."
"Well, the problem is, I'm not even sure we'll have any clients left if I put you in charge. Jennings isn't the first you've upset. You're too ... confrontational."
"I haven't called anyone else an asshole." Well, not for a while anyway.
Jake ignored the interruption. "I've known you a long time, and you've always been the same—hard as nails and pretty screwed up as far as men are concerned. It hasn't mattered, and it was none of my business. It matters now."
That was bad news. "It does?"
"Yes. If you're serious about wanting this job. Whatever happened to you in the past, you need to get over it. Let it go and move on." He sat back. "Okay, lecture over, but you get one more chance—upset this client and you'll make Gary a very happy man."
She glared. "You wouldn't."
"Just watch me. I'd rather not. Apart from the PR stuff, you're better than he is, but I will if you don't learn to think before you open your mouth."
She wanted to argue, but deep down she knew he was right. Actually, not that deep down. But she'd always relished a challenge ... being "nice" was just another. Taking a deep breath, she curved her lips into a bright smile. "I can do that. In fact, I'll make you a deal: if I don't have this next client eating out of my hand and singing my praises, then you're welcome to give the job to Gary."
She ignored him. "So what is this emergency job? Who's the client?" "Bodyguard. CEO of one of the big multinationals."
"But why call me in? Both Dave and Steve are free since the job they were on was canceled. They're doing surveillance but bored out of their minds."
"Because the client asked for you."
"Oh." She wasn't usually requested for bodyguard work, at least not for men. Most didn't believe a woman could protect them. "Let me see."
Jake swiveled the screen so she could read the report. For a second, the words blurred, as though her brain didn't want to register the information.
Maybe she was hallucinating. Jake's orders to put the past behind her had obviously had the opposite effect and conjured up the name in front of her. She blinked, then again, but the letters refused to realign into something more acceptable.
Could it be a different Declan McCabe? Unlikely.
"Sorry. I can't do it."
Jake's brows drew together. "You can't? I thought you'd jump at the chance."
She gave what she hoped was a casual shrug. "I'm tied up with a few other jobs right now."
"So reallocate them. I have an overwhelming urge to see this client eating out of your hand. I looked him up and he's got a reputation as a ruthless bastard."
She swallowed. "He does?"
"Yeah. Cold as ice. I'll tell you what. I'll make you a deal—you keep him sweet, prove you can do it, and my job is yours."
Well, that wasn't good news. What chance was there of her keeping Declan McCabe sweet? None, she was betting. "So why does he need a bodyguard?"
"Someone shot him this morning."
An unwelcome jolt of shock stabbed her in the solar plexus. "Is he all right?"
"They just winged him."
She let out her breath in a sigh. Though why she should worry about the asshole bastard who had broken her heart she didn't know. For many years, she would have gladly put a bullet into him herself. Or if she'd ever thought about him she would have. Which she didn't. Because she hated him.
Then something else triggered. "You said he asked for me?"
"Specifically by name?"
"Yes." A frown was forming between Jake's brows. "You know this man?"
"No," she said quickly. Too quickly, and Jake's frown deepened. She swallowed, then took a deep breath, wiped her palms down her thighs. She had to get out of there, get herself under control before she gave herself away. "I'll go see if I can reallocate those jobs." Without waiting for him to answer, she pushed herself up and headed for the door.
"Are you okay?"
Jake's words halted her as she reached for the handle. She didn't turn. "Why wouldn't I be?" And she was out of there.
Her mind hammered against her skull. Declan had asked for her. Why? And who'd shot him? His father had owned nightclubs and been into all sorts of dubious stuff. Maybe Declan had gone the same way. Though she doubted that. He'd always been a sanctimonious prick.
And he'd asked for her.
She needed to hit something. Jake had installed a gym in the basement of the building and she headed down there. Just beat up the punching bag and get it out of her system. Even better, she met one of the other operatives on her way down in the elevator.
"You going for a workout?" she asked.
"Yeah," he said eyeing her dubiously.
She guessed she looked a little tense. "Good. I feel like beating the crap out of something. I was going to use the punching bag, but I'm guessing you'll be much more satisfying." Steve was six foot four and three years younger than her.
Half an hour later and she was breathing hard, but not as hard as Steve. He leaned against the wall, wiping the sweat from his forehead with the back of his hand.
"Does this mean you like me?" he asked. "You wouldn't beat up on me if you didn't like me, right?"
"Come on, Jess. Admit it. Come out for a drink with me tonight."
"I don't shit on my own doorstep." Actually, she didn't shit on anyone's doorstep, but that was none of Steve's business. "Besides, I'm betting you on only asked because you want to win the wager."
Excerpted from Taking Control by Nina Croft, Candace Havens, Allison Collins. Copyright © 2014 Nina Croft. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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