A woman in danger…
Serena Blake is a bestselling author of erotic fiction. She knows how to write a happy ending but hasn’t managed to find one of her own. Divorced and alone, she has no one to turn to when a stalker begins to threaten her life. The cops don’t believe her. Her ex-husband thinks she’s making the whole story up. She has no one left to turn to except a pair of hired bodyguards. They promise to guard her body, but no one can protect her heart.
Two men in search of love…
Adam Miles and Jacob Dean are halves of a whole. They’ve spent their entire adult lives searching for the one woman who can handle them both. Adam is the playful, indulgent lover, while Jacob is the possessive, loving Dom. When Serena comes into their lives, Adam is certain that she’s the one. But Jacob’s past comes back to haunt them all. He is suspicious of Serena’s story, and his concerns are driving a wedge between him and Adam. But when the stalker strikes, they will have to come together or lose each other forever…
“What brings you to McKay-Taggart today, Miss?” Adam forced himself to ask the question when all he really wanted to do was tug the curvy brunette into his arms and promise her everything would be all right.
From the moment Jake had shown her in his door and dumped her at his desk, Adam had wanted to put a hand on her. It was an instinct. She was exactly his type, and she seemed to be in trouble. He was a sucker for a woman in trouble.
Luckily there was a desk between them or he might prove he was completely unprofessional.
“It’s Serena Brooks. That’s my real name.” Her hands fluttered nervously before she forced them into her lap. “Please call me Serena. Everyone does. Well, my friends do. I actually have a couple of names. Did I offend the first guy?”
Interesting. Adam found himself leaning forward. He caught the faintest whiff of something citrusy. Serena Brooks was a sweet-looking thing. Golden-brown hair escaped from the bun on the back of her head in soft wisps that framed a lovely face. She had on a slightly too big green sweater and jeans. She wore a very professional-looking pair of glasses that she toyed with from time to time. She looked like a sweet librarian.
Fuck, it had been way too long since he’d gotten laid. He usually at least had a full conversation with a woman before he decided to lay her out, strip her down and sink into her.
“Jake? No, you didn’t offend him. He’s odd. I’m sure he had something important to do.”
Jake had a lot of explaining to do. Apparently, he hadn’t even introduced himself to Serena. He’d simply walked her across the hall and dumped her, mumbling something about some research he had to do, and ran out, leaving Adam with more questions than he could answer and one very lovely damsel in distress. At least she could answer a few questions.
“Why do you have more than one name?” Maybe he should back off a bit. Adam knew that sometimes the softest packages could explode in his face. He had the scars to prove it. Ten years of security work including five years serving his country with the Green Berets should have taught him not to take anything at face value. Unfortunately his dick hadn’t gotten the message.
He glanced at the clock, wondering how long Jacob Dean was going to take. They rarely worked apart. Even during something as simple as a client referral meeting, he preferred to have Jake at his side. Jake so often caught things Adam didn’t.
“Oh, you think I have assumed names. Aliases.” She laughed. It was a throaty, sexy laugh. It went straight to Adam’s cock.
“That would be the very definition of a name that isn’t your own.” He was utterly fascinated with the way her eyes lit up when she laughed. Even from behind her glasses, he could see her eyes were a lovely shade of green.
She smiled and leaned forward. She probably had no idea that when she leaned forward, her sweater opened and he could see a creamy expanse of breast. He bet she was at least a C cup. Maybe a small D. She would fill his hands. Those breasts would more than likely look beautiful with rope surrounding them, forcing them to stand up and show off.
“I like the idea of an alias, Mr. Miles. It makes me sound far more interesting than I really am. I have a pen name. Amber Rose.”
“You’re a writer.” That fit. He could see her hunched over a notepad writing out innocent romances. He wondered if she blushed when she wrote the kissing scenes. If he told her how he liked to take a woman, she would probably run the other way.
The question was would he chase her down?
The door to his office opened, and Jake strode in. “Sorry. I had a few things to deal with including one very pushy receptionist who likes to put her overly cute nose into everyone’s business.” He turned to the client, and Adam noticed his double take. Yeah. They had the same taste in women, which was good since they liked to share. “I’m Jake Dean. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“Serena Brooks.” She held out her hand, and Jake hesitated only for the slightest second before enveloping it in his own.
Adam understood his hesitation. The woman in front of them was lovely and potentially submissive. It was there in the way she held herself, in the soft way she spoke and the pleasure she obviously took when she thought she’d pleased someone. She might not know or understand it, but Adam had been in the lifestyle long enough to recognize all the signs. Jake was far more invested in being a Dom, but Adam always backed him up.
“That’s a beautiful name, Serena,” Adam said, wanting to see if his hunch was correct.
She flushed and looked down. “Thank you.”
Yep. Score one for the team.
Jake looked at him, shaking his head slightly. Adam could almost read his mind.
Client. Stay away.
He smiled back, a slight uptick of his lips to give Jake his response. No way. No how.
He certainly wasn’t going to back away. They hadn’t even taken the case yet, and there was no certainty that they would. It was very difficult to believe the woman in front of him had gotten herself in enough trouble that she would actually need their services. More than likely she wanted to check out a cheating boyfriend. McKay-Taggart didn’t provide those types of services. Adam could happily refer her to a private investigator, and then in a few months, he could call her up and offer her a little solace—ménage style.
Jake looked at her, his eyes fastened to her face. “I didn’t have a reminder about your appointment. I apologize for being late.”
Bastard. He knew damn well she didn’t have an appointment. Jake was pushing her to see if she would lie. Adam sighed. Jake was good at playing bad cop.
Serena didn’t even try to lie. She flushed and stammered a little. “I didn’t have an appointment. I kind of walked in. I’m sorry if I’m inconveniencing you. I really should have made an appointment, but my agent thought it would be okay.” She started to stand.
Jake’s voice deepened, proving to Adam beyond a shadow of a doubt that he’d picked up on the same signs. He only used that voice on submissives they picked up in the clubs. “Sit down, Serena.”
She settled in again.
“We’re not upset. I was simply apologizing for not being here at the start of the meeting. Adam and I are a team. We work together. We usually meet clients together.” Jake leaned on the side of the desk. “We don’t usually have clients who simply walk in off the street. McKay-Taggart doesn’t advertise.”
McKay-Taggart Security worked for a very select clientele.
“I know. I had never heard of you.” She nodded and sank her hand into what seemed like a never-ending handbag. Adam was pretty sure she could have fit the contents of a small house in that bag. She apologized as she searched through it, finally coming up with a small business card. She passed it to Jake. “My agent sent me. I guess she’s worked with you guys before.”
Jake looked at it and then passed it to Adam.
Anderson Literary Agency
Lara Anderson, Agent
There was an address and phone numbers, but he didn’t recognize the name. It didn’t really matter. He would look her up as soon as the client was gone, and he would know the woman right down to what she’d had for lunch. He was damn good. It wouldn’t matter if they took the case or not. He was interested in whoever thought to send clients their way. Usually the government or wealthy corporations were more their style, but he was intrigued at the idea of a single client in need of help.
“So what brings you in today?” He tried to come up with any reason for someone so obviously harmless to need a security company of McKay-Taggart’s level. They wouldn’t come cheap.
She took a deep breath, as though steeling herself to get through the next few moments. “I have a stalker. Sometimes fans joke about stalking an author, but this one is serious.”
Jake’s arms crossed over his chest. “Have you talked to the police?”
“On several occasions. I have the police reports right here.” She shoved her glasses back up her nose before delving into her bag. She came up with several papers, each one slightly wrinkled. She put them down on the desk, attempting to smooth them out. “Sorry. I’m not the most organized of people. My friends keep telling me to get a personal assistant.”
Jake snatched the paperwork before Adam could get a hand on it. His fingers tapped along the desk. He knocked twice and swept his fingers toward Serena. It was his signal for Adam to keep the client talking while he reviewed the data.
Adam was the soft touch, and Jake the hard hand. Adam was all right with that. It usually meant that he got to play first.
“Do you know the identity of this man? Is he an ex?” Adam asked, allowing his voice to go soft and sympathetic.
She shook her head. “No. I don’t know. What I mean is I have no idea who this guy is. I’m divorced, but I can’t imagine Doyle would do this to me. He’s an asshole, but he’s really upfront about it.”
Adam wasn’t convinced. When a woman was being systematically stalked, the proper place to start was with an ex. “Your divorce was acrimonious?”
The little huff that came out of her mouth told Adam all he needed to know. “My divorce was started by my ex-husband. He blindsided me. I thought we were happy. We’ve been divorced for almost three years. He’s not interested in me physically. Believe me, he made that plain. And this guy seems very interested, if you know what I mean.”
But Adam didn’t buy that her ex was completely uninterested. If he was male and had working parts and the right bent, he would be interested. Adam let it go for now. “Fine. Tell me what happened.”
“It started really simply. I have a Facebook fan page. Uhm, it’s nothing special, just a place where I talk to fans and post excerpts. But a couple of months ago I got a friend request from someone named Joshua Lake. I thought it was kind of cool because he’s one of my most popular characters. I thought it was cute. It was fine at first. And then it got weird.”
“What do you mean by weird?”
Her face flushed. There was no doubt in Adam’s mind that this woman truly believed she was in danger. “He started to send me private messages. I’ll be honest. At first I thought it was a woman. Most men don’t read romance novels.”
“I would assume you don’t have a lot of male fans. Do you often have men who try to friend you?” The internet was full of predators. Social networks often made ripe picking grounds.
“Usually they’re in the business. I know a lot of cover models, agents, editors. It’s people like that. I knew the minute I got the request that this was a fan. He knew too much about my work. This is a person who has read all my books.”
Adam was definitely interested. “You said it got weird? What were his private messages like?”
“At first I thought he was just role-playing.”
Jake pulled out his phone. He pushed off the desk. “Yes, I’d like to talk to Lieutenant Brighton. Please let him know it’s Jake Dean.”
Serena shook her head. “Oh, the officer assigned to my case was named Chitwood.”
Adam waved her off as Jake stepped away, talking quietly on the phone. “I’m sure they assigned someone very junior to your case. We know Lieutenant Brighton from our Army days. He’s sort of our liaison when we have cases involving the local police. I’m sure Jake would just like to get his hands on the source material. I take it the police have transcripts of all the conversations?”
“Yes. Apparently the network kept the conversations on file even after I unfriended him. I blocked him as well.”
Adam could guess what happened next. “And he simply changed his name and came back.”
“Yes. And he was angry. He laid low for a few weeks and then told me that I wouldn’t be able to get rid of him. He called me arrogant for even thinking that I could brush him aside. I blocked him again. That was when he showed up on my personal page.”
Adam frowned. This man seemed very determined. Usually the trollers gave up after the first rejection and went on to find easier prey. “How well known are you?”
“As Amber Rose? I have a following. I make my living this way. I sell tens of thousands of downloads every quarter. But I could be in a room with two hundred people and the likelihood of someone knowing me is very small. Even a successful author isn’t very famous. I’ve never hit the Times. I probably won’t, but I have some crazy fan girls. I didn’t get really worried until he sent a friend request to me as Serena Brooks.”
Adam didn’t like the sound of that. “How closely do you guard your name?”
Her hands threaded together in her lap, a sure sign that she was very nervous about the whole situation. “I’ve tried to keep it out of everything. Obviously my publisher, my agent and editor know my real name, but no one else does.”
“Not even your friends?” If this woman didn’t have a few deeply close friends, he would shoot himself. He would bet a lot on the fact that she developed intimate relationships. Perhaps not with many people, but there would be a few who would know all of her secrets.
Her eyes went wide. “Yes. I have two friends who know what I do. Bridget and Chris. But they’re writers, too. We all write romance. They would never give up my name. Bridget has been through the same thing. She’s had some guys write her letters from prison saying they were coming after her when they got out.”
“Is that normal?” It sounded horrible. She wrote romances. The worst she should have to deal with was some fan asking her when the next one would come out.
She shrugged. “It happens more than you would think.”
“And what have the police said?” He could guess. They wouldn’t do a whole hell of a lot. Even with stalking laws in place, unless they knew who the guy was, they couldn’t do much.
“He uses public access to computers. Everything has come from a library, and apparently he has several fake names.”
Adam was pretty sure he could do better than that. Damn it. He was going to have to take her case. She actually needed the firm, and not just the firm, but him especially. He was a computer expert. He’d been his unit’s communications expert in the Green Berets. He’d taken that to another level in the civilian world. He considered himself an excellent hacker. If this asshole was out there, Adam was sure he could find him.
“What has he threatened to do to you?” Adam was pretty sure he didn’t want to know, but he had to ask.
Her hands twisted in her lap. He wanted to hold one in his while Jake enveloped the other, the two of them providing a bulwark against the myriad of dangers she faced.
She got animated as she talked about her work. He thought it was adorable, but they were getting off topic. Adam had to bring her back in line. “You said he changed?”
Her eyes widened as though she had to pull herself out of her own thoughts. “Oh, yes. Uhm, the online stalking stayed the same, but then the calls started and the e-mails. Those were about how evil I am. It’s weird. I don’t understand how this person can be invested in my books when he obviously thinks they’re pornographic.”
Adam sighed. “He’s obviously not right in the head. Our resident profiler could explain it better. He’s crazy. That’s all I’ve got.” Adam got out of his chair, unwilling to sit any longer. He walked around his desk and sank to one knee, sliding his hand over hers. He could practically feel her relax. “It’s going to be okay. Let me look into this.”
There was the low sound of someone clearing his throat. Adam looked up, and Jake stood in the doorway, a frown on his face. Fuck. He wouldn’t like what Adam had just said.
“Ms. Brooks, what Adam is trying to say is that we’ll bring this case in front of the group. We don’t have the authority to take the case. It has to go up for review.” Jake stared down at them, a forbidding presence.
Adam wondered what the hell had put that look on his face.
Serena pulled her hand back, retreating as effectively as if she’d walked across the room. Her face went blank and polite. “Of course. I appreciate you listening to me. I suppose you have the police reports?”
Jake nodded, but there was a coldness to his stance that Adam didn’t like. “I do. I think we have everything we need. We’ll get back to you.”
She stood, careful to avoid touching Adam. “I’m sure you will.”
There was a defeated slant to her shoulders as though she was sure everything Jake was saying was mere lip service.
“We’ll be in touch very soon, Serena.” Adam barely restrained himself from reaching for her. “I promise. I will call you tonight.”
“Sure.” She turned her head, not making eye contact. “Thank you both for your time.”
She walked out of the room without looking back. The door closed with a quiet click.
“What the fuck was that about?” Adam turned on his partner.
Jake’s face shut down. “It’s about putting the horse way before the cart here. I just talked to Brighton. Everyone at the DPD thinks this is a marital squabble. Her ex-husband recently decided to sue her for a portion of her income. This could really help her case.”
“She told us it couldn’t be him.” Adam could already see Jake’s brain turning. Jake had been hurt before—on a fundamental level. The scars on Jake’s soul ran deep, and no one had been able to make a dent in them yet.
“And yet she gave the cops clues that led them straight to her ex’s door. This is an angry woman, Adam. I get that she’s beautiful, but we need to take a look at this before we get involved. I can already see that you’re in way too deep. Even if we decide to take her case, I think it would be best if we passed it off to Liam or Alex or someone who isn’t going to get emotional.”
Maybe he’d read Jake wrong. For the last ten years, he’d shared everything with Jacob Dean, including women. Jake was the brother he wished he’d had and the friend he couldn’t imagine living without. He couldn’t believe that Jake wasn’t attracted to the woman who had just walked out the door.
“I want to see those reports. And even then I don’t think I can turn her away. She was scared. If you can’t see that then you weren’t looking at her and you’re not who I thought you were.”
Jake shook his head. “Look at that. She’s already causing problems. I knew that woman was trouble the minute Grace walked her into the room. I knew you would react this way. And this is precisely why we’re not taking this case. I left the file with Grace. You can review it. We present to the group in the morning.”
Adam felt his fists clench. “And if this asshole kills her before then?”
“You know the likelihood of that happening is next to none.” Jake leaned in. “Buddy, you have to learn to protect yourself.”
“And you have to learn that not every woman is Jennifer.” There. He’d said it. The name dropped like a lodestone between them. Adam could practically feel the room’s temperature drop.
Jake turned on his heels. “I’m heading out. I’m going to the club tonight. Are you coming with me?”