Due out tomorrow… my messed up hero

The Protected


Long, tense moments passed and then Gus nodded slowly.

He held out a hand, and although she didn’t trust him any farther than she could throw him, she placed her hand in his, let him offer her assistance she didn’t need to rise to her feet.

He kept hold of her hand as he guided her across the room and toward the one area where they might have a modicum of privacy. Out of habit, she checked the bolt on the door. The latch was secured. The door was locked. Nobody had followed them and Vaughnne wasn’t about to let anybody near that kid. If they tried, she’d blow a hole through them or scramble their brains—whichever seemed to work best at the time.

Still…she checked.

Seconds later, the bathroom door closed at her back.

And then, she seemed to be the one who needed protection.

Gus went from the quiet protector to the warrior who’d leveled a gun at her, fully prepared to kill her. Before she could even catch her breath, he slammed her against the door, his forearm at her throat, pressing hard enough that she couldn’t draw her breath to scream.

She could have fought back.

She knew that.

And she knew how.

But as his misty eyes stared into hers, her heart slammed against her chest and she couldn’t breathe, could barely even think.

It wasn’t fear that seemed to crowd out all of her thoughts, though. Fear she could have handled.

This was so, so much worse.

“You need to understand something.” He leaned in, pressing his mouth to her ear. “And I want you to listen to me, very, very closely…Vaughnne. Is that even your name?”

She was pleased that her voice was almost steady as she said, “Yes. It’s my name. I gave you a false last name, but my first name is Vaughnne.”

“Hmmm.” He nuzzled her neck and little licks of pleasure shot all the way through her. “And FBI…are you really FBI?”

“Yes.” She closed her eyes as he pushed his thigh between hers. Oh, hell. What the hell was this?  “You can call D.C. They can verify.”

“They routinely give out names of their agents, Vaughnne?”

He licked her. What… the… hell?  She shuddered as he crowded in closer. His forearm was still wedged against her throat, preventing her from moving, but it was no longer pressing against her so tight that it was a chore just to breathe. Well, it was, but that was because of the sheer, burning weight of lust. He traced his tongue down the line of her neck. “You did not answer me.”

Accent, she noticed dimly. He had an accent—she hadn’t ever heard it before.  And she would have noticed, too, which meant the man’s skills just went from the category four strange to category five.  At least.

Swallowing, she focused on his question. “Generally, no. But if you call and ask for the man I tell you to ask for, he will verify.”

“And isn’t that convenient?” He laughed a little, resting his free hand on her hip. His fingers flexed and she felt the imprint everywhere he touched. Every single place, from his thumb, to his little finger, curving over her flesh, kneading back and forth… “You give me a false number. A false name. So easy to fool me, you think?”

As his mouth came to cover hers, she averted her head. Finally, her brain was engaging.

Sex as a weapon. Not something she’d ever had directed at her, but, whoa. Damn. That’s what this was and he was potent as hell. “You can look the damn number up on Google. I’m pretty sure I can’t control Google, although if I can get them to give me some major shares in the stock, hey, I’m game to try. You call that number, I’ll tell you how to get connected to the man who can vouch for me.”

His knee pushed between her thighs and this time, no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t keep from shuddering. Couldn’t keep from whimpering as he drew her in until she was all but riding his thigh. Oh. Hell.

“And what will he tell me when he vouches for you?  What happens then?  Somebody comes in here to take the child from me?  I don’t think so, Vaughnne.”

“Nobody wants to take him away,” she snapped. And then she curled her hands into fists to keep from reaching for him as he shifted and settled his hips squarely between her own. She felt him now. All of him, the ridge of his cock, hot and thick, and damn it, if he hadn’t been aroused, this would have been easier, so much easier.

But sex as a weapon wasn’t really useful if the weapon wasn’t primed and ready to fire, she supposed.

Summoning up what little strength she had, she closed her eyes. She went through her options and discarded all but a few. As she was busy with that, he shifted the forearm he had wedged across her upper body. Cooler air kissed her flesh and she hissed as she realized he had freed the top button of her shirt.

No. Absolutely no.

As he reached for the second one, she opened her eyes and stared at him.

He stared right back at her.

She didn’t have a lot of room to maneuver, she had next to no leverage and she’d rather not wake up Alex, either.  The kid had already been through hell and was sick on top of everything else in his life.

She didn’t really want to hurt Gus, either.  Assuming she could. She might want to bloody him in that very second, but he was trying to protect the kid. She thought maybe she could understand that drive. Maybe.

As pissed off as she was, she understood the basic need to protect.

When he leaned in, she slid a hand around the back of his neck, careful to keep her expression blank. As he covered her mouth, she held herself still. And as he went to sweep his tongue across hers, she bit him. At the same time, she tangled a hand in his hair and jerked. He muffled his response, doing exactly what she’d expected—trying to avoid waking Alex, scaring him. He went to grab her and she jammed her fist into his throat. He had to breathe, right?

Even as he was struggling to do that, though, he was already reaching for her. Damn it. He was too well-equipped for this, she thought. She evaded his hand and lashed out with one weapon he couldn’t prepare for. Blasting her voice into his mind, she watched as he stumbled and slammed a hand against his temple, caught off guard.

She jerked the door open, taking advantage of the few precious seconds she had. The second she was out the door, she cut the scream off, pulling her weapon as she set her stance.

He came for her, pausing only at the sight of her weapon. She set her stance and held his gaze.

“We’re not doing this, Casanova,” she said quietly. She licked her lips and hated the fact that she could still taste him. Her entire body throbbed, ached. Burned for him. And damn it, if he hadn’t been trying to pull…whatever he’d been pulling?  She might have been just fine with letting him do anything he wanted to with her. Even with a kid sleeping a few feet away. They’d been in a bathroom, right?  She knew how to be quiet.

But he had been up to something and she wasn’t going to be used. Wasn’t going to have any man use sex against her. No matter what the goal was.

“Nobody is going to hurt him,” she said as he edged out of the bathroom, moving closer and closer.

She backed away. And still he kept coming. Eventually, she ran out of room and he stood there with his chest pressed to the muzzle of her Glock and no emotion on his face.

“Nobody is going to hurt him. Nobody is going to take him. I’m here to help keep him safe,” she said.

“Nobody can keep him safe,” Gus said, his voice a monotone. “You don’t even know what is after him.”

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