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TO THE EDGE, Book No. 1 in THE BODYGUARDS series

.... The first surprise was the crack of the door hitting Jillian’s bedroom wall. The second was that she’d been asleep – dead asleep. She shot straight up in bed then covered her eyes with her forearm when the overhead light flicked on, blinding her.

“Get up and get dressed. We’ve got to move.”

She squinted through the cobwebs, then blinked at the man who’d sent her heart into orbit for the second time tonight as her new bodyguard stalked across the room and rifled through her bureau drawers. 

She was too shocked to order him out. “What … what do you think you’re doing?”

“Saving time. Put these on.”

Her arms lifted automatically to catch the white shorts and red t-shirt he tossed at her chest. 

“What?” She threw her legs over the side of the bed, dragged back her hair. Scowled. Yawned. And finally got a slippery grip on the emotion she was most used to dealing with around Nolan Garrett. “Let me rephrase that. What?”

“I don’t have time to explain. Just get dressed and make it snappy or you’re going like you are. Your choice.”

Jillian wasn’t sure if it was his warning snarl, the fact that her sleep-drugged mind was only half-functioning or the very real possibility that whoever was threatening her had turned up the heat, but the moment he strode out of her bedroom, she scrambled out of bed and dove for her panty drawer. She didn’t bother with a bra but she didn’t go commando for anyone and if she was going to start, it sure as the world wasn’t going to be for him.

Less than a minute later, she skidded into the living area carrying her sandals and finger combing her hair. “What’s happened?”

The black scowl on the face of the man who was shoving ammo into the clip of a weapon that made her .22 look like a squirt gun said it all. A lot. A lot had happened.

She noticed then what she hadn’t noticed in her sleep-fogged state when he’d barged into her bedroom. He’d evidently showered – his hair was wet and he smelled of soap and shampoo, something leathery that hinted at sage and citrus. He was dressed all in black again. His short-sleeved t-shirt clung to his chest, damp in spots, like he hadn’t taken the time to dry himself off completely. 

She spun toward the door, toeing on her sandals, sensing his urgency as he armed himself. “Is someone trying to get in?” 

To the gun, which he expertly holstered, he added a long, lethal looking knife that he tucked in his boot then covered with his pant leg.

No doubt about it. He was preparing for battle. 

She was stubborn but she wasn’t stupid. For the time being, she was going to take this at face value – even though she had to gnaw on her lower lip to keep from peppering him with more questions that he clearly did not want to field.

“Let’s go.” He snagged her elbow and led her toward the door.

Steel. The impression of steel beneath honed flesh and wrapped around bone burned through her skin and had her keeping pace at a fast trot as they streaked out of her penthouse and scrambled toward the elevator. 

“Can you at least tell me what’s going on?” she whispered as they stepped inside the elevator cab and the doors slid soundlessly shut.

“What’s going on is that you need to keep your mouth shut and do exactly what I tell you.”

She was wide-awake now and her initial surge of surprise, which had transitioned to fear, was quickly listing toward irritation. No. Make that anger. She’d seen no one in the hall. Had heard nothing. And on their little jaunt to the elevator, he hadn’t seemed particularly intent on keeping her close and shielding her from whatever he’d perceived as a threat.

“If this is a drill,” she said after assessing the situation and finding imminent danger remarkably absent, “I’d just as soon skip the rest of it, thank you very much.”

What she’d just as soon, didn’t seem to matter to him. He didn’t say a word. Long moments passed and silence, as thick and palpable as the tension radiating from his body, engulfed the elevator. And oddly, hovering over it all, awareness, for the first time, of him as the man who would protect her, stalled her questions and her anger and held her in a grip that rivaled his hold on her arm when he’d dragged he down the hall.

Along with the scent of soap and shampoo that he must have brought with him because it didn’t smell anything like the rain forest products she’d stocked in the guest bathroom, she could literally smell the testosterone, could feel his coiled strength as the relatively roomy elevator shrank to about the size of a micro chip. 

Jillian was a trained observer. It came with the job. And when she wasn’t run over by hysteria – standard protocol, in her opinion, when you stepped out of a shower and found a man in your bathroom packing a gun – her mind assessed, cataloged, and filed details neatly away for later recall.

There was nothing neat about Nolan Garrett’s details. In fact, the devil was clearly in his details – all raw power, consummate masculinity and a pretty good measure of mean thrown in to thicken the stew. She’d bet her top slot during ratings week that he had killed. Call her crazy, but that still made him dangerous in her book.

Fallen angel. She stood by her initial assessment. 

The reporter in her couldn’t help but be intrigued by him. Under other circumstances, the woman in her might even have appreciated the sheer male beauty of the man. The full lips, that even now were compressed in a hard, unyielding line as he stared straight ahead at the panel of lights on the elevator wall, were unsettlingly sensual. His dark hair was a little on the long side. It gave him a reckless and a bit mussed up look – like he’d just gotten out of bed or was about to tumble someone into one. Coupled with the heavy five o’clock shadow darkening his jaw, the look didn’t quite fit with the clean, defined lines of his face or the honed precision of his body, which he held in a rigid, almost military posture.

Whoa. Back up. Military. 


She could see it now. In his ramrod straight stance, in the spring-loaded give of his powerful legs. Regardless of his casual air, it was apparent he was perpetually balanced and ready for action. The man was on red alert. Trained to act and react. Kill or be killed.

If she’d suspected it before, she was sure of it now. He had killed. Would kill again. For her, if he had to. And while she didn’t want to be – she wanted to be angry and incensed – she found herself hopelessly compelled to find out more about him.

“Special Ops?” she asked into the silence that had thickened to syrup.

With the slightest shift of his gaze, he met her eyes. He looked annoyed. And something else, suddenly. Aware. Of her. Of the fact that they were strangers and alone in an elevator on a hot Florida night – and that he’d seen her naked stepping in and out of her shower little more than an hour ago.

Before she could stall a damnable blush, his expression closed up again leaving her wondering if she’d been imagining things. And she still hadn’t gotten an answer to her question.

“I have a right to know,” she insisted.

“You have the right to remain silent too but I don’t suppose you’re going to exercise it.”

What happened then amazed her. A small grin – a mix of amusement and fatalistic forbearance – cracked that granite facade. Earlier, when he’d terrorized her to make a point he’d given up some semblance of a smile. But that had been staged, manufactured to show scorn, to let her know who was in charge and to scare her into wetting her pants – which she might have, if she’d had any on. 

This smile was different. It had been … spontaneous. Unguarded. And though it had been barely there, it had been a break in his armor – although why she thought she wanted to breach it, she had no idea. Just like she didn’t know why that small concession to emotion had transformed all of his uncompromising and harsh beauty into something she hadn’t wanted to deal with before either: the fact that he was real. Something more than a stranger with a gun, a protector without a heart. He became a man to her in that moment … a man of flesh and blood and feelings.

For some unsettling reason, it made him seem even more dangerous. It had been much easier to dismiss him as a cold-blooded machine. Now, she had to entertain the possibility of seeing him in a whole new light.

“Rangers,” he finally volunteered, surprising her yet again and snapping her away from those troubling thoughts.

“Lead the way,” she finished the credo, then waited for a reaction that never came. Unless you considered the fact that his eyes went dead was a reaction. Given that she’d just witnessed an actual display of human emotion from him, she decided it was. A big one.