Small-town elementary schoolteacher Kim Cassidygorgeous and sweethad fallen for a crook while on a cruise, without a clue who he really was. Now she was home, waiting for her prince, and secret agent Nick Callahan's task was to track her every move.
Watching a gorgeous blonde all day? No problem. But in small-town Georgia, hiding was impossible, and he and Kim became friends. Keeping the truth from this kind, pretty woman was getting harder. Then a kissa passionate onecomplicated things even more.
He would still protect her. The question was, from whom?
About the Author
Teresa Hill tells people if they want to be writers, to find a spouse who's patient, understanding and interested in being a patron of the arts. Lucky for her, she found a man just like that, who's been with her through all the ups and downs of being a writer. Along with their son and daughter, they live in Travelers Rest, SC, in the foothills of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, with two beautiful, spoiled dogs and two gigantic, lazy cats.
Read an Excerpt
Kim Cassidy grinned like crazy as she made her way off the plane at the Atlanta airport and into the arms of an exas- perated-looking blond giant of a man who happened to be her brother.
Jackson Cassidy was gorgeous, solid as they came and most definitely mad.
"Are you trying to make me old before my time?" Jax demanded, crushing her to him for a long moment.
"No, I am not trying," she said, hugging him in return be- fore easing back to smile at him. "And you? Been flashing your badge around again?"
"What if I have?" he said, completely unrepentant, as he waved off the contingent of airport security waiting three paces behind him. "I've got it from here, guys. She's not going to get away from me ."
Kim laughed. "Come along quietly, miss, and I won't get out the hand- cuffs," he said, hustling her away from the gate.
Kim's fellow passengers, many of whom she'd chatted with on the plane from Heathrow, looked aghast. Airport security understandably looked annoyed. She'd been met at the gate like this more than once, having an unfortunate tendency to run into trouble when traveling. Not that it had been all trouble this time.
"Honestly, baby girl, pirates?" he said, taking her tote bag from her and throwing it over his shoulder.
She giggled, couldn't help it. "Pirates?" he repeated, louder this time and sounding even more irate.
"Just a couple," she said.
"That's not what I heard ."
And, knowing him, he'd heard all about it by now. He probably knew more about the incident than she did, even though she'd been there and he'd been thousands of miles away.
It was truly annoying at times, sweet at others. "It was not my fault," she insisted. "I was minding my own business, doing nothing more dangerous than sunning myself on the pool deck of the ship. That's it. Just lying there sipping my froufrou drink with one of those cute little umbrellas sticking out of it, when"
Her cruise ship was attacked by pirates!
It was nearly impossible to believe.
She won a trip on a luxury cruise ship and what happened? Attacked by modern-day pirates?
Leave it to her to findon vacationa disaster of the sort she'd thought had been extinct for hundreds of years.
"I meancome on?" she tried. "Did you know there were still pirates floating around looking for ships to hijack? I didn't know. How was I supposed to know?"
Looking no less worried or annoyed, Jax flipped open his cell phone and hit Speed Dial. As they continued to walk, he put the phone to his ear and said, "Got her.All in one piece, too.Yeah, we'll be there in an hour and a half if I use my sirens ."
"There's no need for sirens," she insisted, trying to take the phone from him, but he just frowned down at her, flipped it shut and put it away, which meant he intended to interrogate her all by himself on the ride home without anyone getting in the way.
"Hey, I could still pull out the handcuffs," he said.
"Do it and you won't get a word from me about my trip or the guy I met there," she threatened.
That got his attention. "There's a guy?"
She nodded, her grin back full force as she looked up at him. "Jax" she sighed, knowing her voice had taken on a silly, dreamy quality and simply unable to help it. "I think No, I'm sure. I'm absolutely sure that I'm in love!"
He looked completely taken aback for a moment, stopped dead in his tracks, the line of airline passengers behind them coming to a grumbling halt, some cursing softly as they made their way around her and him, all in a hurry to get somewhere.
"Okay, justtell me he's not one of the pirates?" he asked with a look that said he couldn't handle that right now.
"'Cause that could definitely give me gray hairs. That would be cause for handcuffs and sirens and maybe a jail celland you know I could arrange ituntil you came to your senses ."
"He is not a pirate! He's the guy who saved me from the pirates." She beamed just thinking about it.
"Oh," her brother said, finally giving in to the grumbling of the crowd now flowing around them and starting to walk again. "A cop?"
"Rent-a-cop?" His disdainful label of anyone who worked security but wasn't a real cop.
"No," Kim said.
"Soldier?" he tried.
"No. Nothing like that. He was just there and He was wonderful. He made sure I was completely safe and he even helped fight off the attack. It was amazing, really. you're going to love him ."
"So that means I get to meet him, right? Preferably sooner than later?"
"Of course. He's meeting me here in a few days, as soon as he gets back home"
"Which is where?"
"California? I don't like him," her brother insisted.
"You haven't even met him. You can't dislike him just because he's from California ."
"Sure I can ."
They made it into the wide hallway connecting the main terminal to Baggage Claim, which was packed as usual, and headed toward the down escalator. Kim leaned back against her brother as they rode down.
"Jax? Come on. Don't be like that." She'd known from the start that he'd hate the idea of anyone taking her as far away from the family as California. Not that she wasn't a bit ap- prehensive about that part herself.
Her family meant a lot to her, her brother and his wife, two older sisters and their husbands, one absolutely adorable two- year-old niece, a baby nephew, the teenager her oldest sister and husband had adopted and two more teens they were foster-parenting at the moment.
Their family life was rich, full and happy, more so than she'd ever thought it could be after losing their beloved mother to cancer four years ago and losing their father, also a cop, when Kim was just two years old.
How could she ever walk away from them?
"That's it. I don't like him. you'll just have to fall for a local guy," her brother said, looking more worried than he had been about the ridiculous pirates who'd tried to board her ship and rob them.
"Serves you right," she claimed. "All those years of you making it so difficult for me to date locally You should have known there'd be consequences one day ."
Jax frowned at that. He was overprotective to a fault at times, but he thought, when he wasn't really annoying her, she could understand why. It couldn't have been easy, taking over as surrogate father to three little girls when he'd been all of eleven years old when their father died.
Still, Kim was twenty-four years old now, something he couldn't quite grasp in moments like this. It was time for him to back off.
"Just don't be a jerk to him when he shows up, all right?" Kim asked as they found the luggage carousel for her flight, still empty at the moment, and stood there to wait.
"I won't be a jerk"
"And don't try to scare him ."
"If he's tough enough to save you from pirates, he should for damned sure be able to handle one older brother with a gun," Jax said.
"No threatening him. And no dragging him off into the woods and beating him up, like you did with Joe." Her middle sister, Kathie's, husband. They'd had a rocky start, especially with her brother.
"I never beat him up in the woods," Jax insisted.
"Just threatened him there?"
"Yeah. I just threatened him there ."
"And beat him up at the bank," Kim quipped.
Jax gave her an exasperated look. "We've all moved on from there. You should, too ."
"I just don't want anything to go wrong when he shows up ." Because she was fairly certain that he was it.
The guy she'd been waiting her whole life to find.
It had been a little crazy with him on the ship after the attack. The whole thing had been a classic whirlwind romance, granted, but still
Beside her, her brother gave a heavy sigh.
Kim linked her arm with his. "you're going to tell me I can't possibly fall in love in a week?"
"No, I was going to let Kate do that ."
Older sister. Impossibly practical until she fell in love in- side of six weeks herself. Would Kate think it was impossible to do in a week? Kim wasn't sure.
"Hey, you didn't even tell me his name," her brother said.
"No, I didn't ."
"you're not even going to tell us his name?"
"Why? So you can run him through the FBI's computer?" Her brother shrugged, like there was nothing unreasonable about him doing that to everyone she dated.
"Then no, I'm not going to tell you his name," she said, just to annoy him even more.
"Looks sweet as can be, doesn't she?" a tinny voice quipped through what looked like an ordinary, blue-tooth surveilling her in a bikini for hours know if my heart could have taken it."
handle the sight of sweet little and still keep his mind on his job. "Okay," Nick said and kept walking.
"So maybe she's not as sweet and innocent as she looks, huh?" Harry said. "She's got the guy on the cruise who was just a little vacation fling and her regular guy waiting for her at home?"
"Don't know, Harry ."
It was certainly not what they hoped to find when they'd decided at the last minute to tail her as she'd left the ship.
She and the blond guy with a badge stopped dead in the middle of the busy corridor filled with travelers and their luggage, the move so abrupt that Nick had no choice but to keep walking. he'd go pick up a newspaper at the store fifteen feet down and to the right, wait for them to move on and then
He slipped right past them and
It was a sound a man might make when he'd accidentally touched a hot stove. Like he'd been burned.
That's how it felt. Burning.
he'd gotten a little too close.
And with her, it mattered.
he'd actually touched her, brushed past her right shoulder as she'd turned her hair at just the right moment. A wave of pretty, blond curls had teased their way past his nose, just out of reach but leaving him with a giant whiff of her.
And she smelled really good.
he'd found that out on the ship, too.
The woman smelled great, looked Well, it was scary what that woman could do to a little, yellow bikini. It was downright unfair. Criminal, even.
He had indeed been forced to watch her for hours sunning herself in a bikini. She'd rubbed lotion on herself and he'd watched. Drank a silly, fruity drink, licking her lips when she was done, and he'd watched. Rolled over onto a perfectly toned tummy and then reached behind her back to untie the strings of her top, baring a completely naked back, while he watched and another agent had been whispering in his ear, speculating about how much Nick and the rest of the crew would pay him to dump a cup of ice water on her back and make her jump up, leaving the top behind.
Nick had watched it all.
There'd been a secluded deck on the ship reserved for nude sunbathing. He would be forever grateful she hadn't gone there and taken any more of her little suit off.
But now he'd gotten close enough to smell her hair, actually brush past her shoulder, and every other thought except what torment she'd already caused himhad simply vanished from his head.
"Hey, what did she say?" Harry asked. Nick had no earthly idea.