GUARDED

HAZAK PRIVATE SECURITY BOOK ONE

A handsome bodyguard with a job to do. A beautiful woman in danger. A secret that can destroy everything.  

GABBY

Accompany my pop star sister on her tour to prevent another meltdown splashed across the tabloids…
Easier said than done.
Though, it’s not like I was given a choice.
And after meeting Liam, her gorgeous bodyguard, I’m starting to think being stuck on this tour might not be the worst thing.
Especially when his lips are on mine and my legs quiver from the way he touches me.
But secrets never stay buried for long
When the truth flips my world upside down, who can I trust?
The man whose arms I long for?
Or is he hiding even more that will leave us in ruins…or worse?

 LIAM

The number rule for every bodyguard: never mix business with pleasure.
I’ve never had a problem keeping my boundaries clear until I meet Gabby Monroe.
The whip-smart, sarcastic, and sexy brunette is just too tempting for me to resist.
So why bother trying?
Giving in to my feelings for her offers me something I’ve never had before—a chance at true happiness.
At least…for now
The secret I hold could destroy everything, or worse — put Gabby in danger.
And I’ll do anything to protect her.
Even if it means that she will hate me forever.

Guarded was previously published as Guarding Her Heart, though past readers will enjoy this completely revised edition.

OTHER BOOKS IN THE SERIES

FIRST CHAPTER PREVIEW

CHAPTER ONE:

I have lived twenty-five years, attended private school—the kind where you’re forced to wear knee socks and suffocatingly hot wool blazers—graduated with a degree from an Ivy League and have traveled the world. I speak three languages fluently, played tennis at a competitive level, and know which forks to use when at a dinner party. I’ve even met three members of the British royal family. I am an accomplished woman. And despite all those impressive achievements, I still regularly hide from my boss in the deserted basement-level women’s bathroom.

It is not something I am very proud of, but if you ever met my boss you would understand in a heartbeat. My boss is kind of a terrible person.

I have been working for Dana Basch at Monroe Editorial for exactly three years and twelve days. And I have been using this neglected and forgotten basement bathroom as my hiding place for three years and eleven days, since realizing my boss was secretly the devil and I needed somewhere I could hide and cry while lamenting all my life’s choices up to this point. And not once in those three years and eleven days have I ever seen a single soul in this bathroom.

Except for today. Because today some couple has decided that the bathroom stall directly next to mine will be the perfect place for a mid-morning romp.

The trick to hiding in the bathroom is to work on your thigh muscles. I’m talking a dedicated twenty minutes every day of squats and heel lifts. That way, should someone peer under your toilet stall, you can use your squatting skills to hide your shoes from view. I have worked my way up to a solid ten minutes. Any longer and my legs start to quake and there is a serious danger my ankle might roll and my foot would land right in the middle of that porcelain bowl.

I’m currently on minute nine, admonishing myself for all those days I had skipped my squats. Had I not, maybe I would have been able to last an extra five or six minutes. But alas, my legs are beginning to feel like jelly and I need a plan. I have two choices. I can either announce my presence by tumbling into the toilet and destroying both my perfectly good shoes and my dignity, or try to sneak out of here without the couple—who are aggressively having sex in the stall next to me—hearing me.

Okay, Gabby. It’s decision time.

I decide to sneak. Based on the sounds they are currently making, I doubt this little rendezvous will end any time soon and I can’t hide here much longer. Dana is already undoubtedly canvassing the building for me. I was supposed to make fifty collated copies of her report for a meeting tomorrow, but I messed it up because, despite having a master’s degree, I have zero idea how to collate. And to be perfectly honest, I’m not entirely even sure what collating papers means. But luckily, Staples down the block does and they emailed me that my order was ready about fifteen seconds after these randy employees stumbled into the bathroom.

I extend my arms, laying my palms flat against the sides of the stall to balance as I slide one foot down to the ground. My heel barely makes a sound thanks to a perfectly timed grunt on behalf of the gentleman. With one foot on the ground, I am able to pick up my other one and drop it on the ground without a sound. I then freeze, seeing if my presence has been discovered. After a few seconds, I am sure I am in the clear. Now the challenging part of how to unlock the door and tiptoe those twelve or so steps to the door without getting noticed.

I decide that heels should be off to make this kind of exit. Once I make it past the bathroom stall door, there is no looking back. I will need to run and I will need to pick up some bleach on the way to Staples to wash out my ears from all the sex sounds that have been my soundtrack for the last nine minutes.

Carefully, I slip out of my heels, holding on to them with my left hand as I use my right to slide the lock down. I also hike my pencil skirt up my thighs a bit to allow for a greater range of motion for my dramatic escape. My breath stills as I carefully and slowly slide the lock. Thankfully the gentleman is a grunter with a pretty predictable tempo so I can time the final click with a grunt. I steel myself, ready to run. One, two, grunt and three!

I slide the lock open and dart out of the stall like a horse fleeing its corral. Twelve steps and I am free of this nightmare. What I had forgotten when I rushed out of the stall, however, was to hold the door from swinging back and creating a loud clack as it slammed closed. I’m only four steps from the door, but I freeze at the loud clang. Apparently, when provided with the options of “fight, flight or freeze” I will opt for the last option. My bare feet cement to the ground as I hear the couple abruptly stop and mumble out a string of profanities.

Run, Gabby. You need to run!

My body finally listens to my head and I race toward the bathroom door. Behind me I hear their bathroom stall open. Just three more steps and I can run away and plausibly deny that I was ever a witness to any of this. I reach the door handle and run, not even looking as I run directly into the person I had been desperately trying to avoid. My boss.

“Oh my God, I am so sorry!” I drop my heels and reach out and grab her so that she doesn’t fall backward. I open my mouth to offer an excuse—any excuse—when I see that Dana is not alone. My father stands behind her as does a very tall and extremely handsome man behind him. All three of them are watching me—Dana with abject disdain and annoyance, my father with disappointment, and the man behind him with mild amusement. Because of course I would be caught running out of a bathroom, shoeless, by my boss, my father, and a sexy stranger. It’s basically my worst nightmares combining together in real life.

Before I can even try to explain, the bathroom door bursts open a second time and a man and a woman stumble out. I think I recognize the woman from our accounting office, and I definitely recognize the man from our marketing department, who happens to be very much married but not to the woman from accounting. His tie is askew and he is still buckling his belt as he walks out of the bathroom, his eyes focused downward so he doesn’t immediately see the small crowd gathered in front of him. The woman, however, does and lets out a little shriek of surprise. Her blouse needs just one more button to hide her pink lacy bra, and her red lipstick is smudged halfway across her cheek. At the sound of his potty partner’s shriek, the man looks up, horrified. He recognizes my father, who I should probably mention is the CEO of this company, and all the color drains from his face. If I weren’t so screwed myself, I might even have laughed a bit. I glance up at the man behind my father, who looks like a GQ model and is currently watching me with a very curious look, like I am an extinct species at a zoo. And while any other day, I might find this somewhat flattering, at this moment I can’t be bothered to spare him any thought. Not when I need to figure out what the hell my father is doing with my boss. Oh, and coming up with an excuse for why I had been hiding in an all but abandoned bathroom with an adulterous pair of colleagues.

“What the hell is going on here?” my father barks as he gestures to me, the man, and the woman. Before I can explain, my father follows up with a second question. “What were you all doing in there?” He does not bother to hide his disgust.

It’s then that I finally realize what this must look like. Three adults, each rushing out of a women’s bathroom, in the part of the building no one works in, all in various states of undress. Me without my shoes and my skirt hiked up to mid-thigh, the man without his belt, and the woman missing a few buttons on her blouse. Clearly it looks like all three of us had been enjoying a threesome at ten thirty on a Tuesday morning. Shit.

“No!” I call out, my voice a few octaves higher than normal. “I was not”—I turn to gesture to the nameless couple behind me—“part of that. I was hiding…I mean, using…the bathroom. And then they came in and started to…initiate their meeting. And I was going to wait it out but then my thighs were getting sore. But not because I was…you know…but because I was stuck squatting on the toilet.”

If possible, the already palpable tension grows impossibly more awkward and tense. Great job, Gabby. While I may have proved my innocence, it now sounded like I had been taking a gigantic dump instead of the more awkward, but definitively sexier, hooking up in the bathroom. Which I know I shouldn’t care about at this moment, because I am clearly in a world of trouble, but this random dude behind my dad was making me nervous and I thought it would be important for him to know that I was, in fact, not pooping while two people were having sex two feet away from me.

My father clears his throat and looks at my boss, Dana. “Is this,” he says, waving his hand over all of us, each looking more embarrassed than the next, “a daily occurrence here? I am beginning to seriously doubt your capability in managing your office.”

Any other day, I would have loved to see Dana taken to task. Loved it! But, despite her being the living reincarnation of Satan and busting my lady balls every possible second, she doesn’t deserve to be blamed for this. Well, she deserves to be a teensy bit blamed for my needing to find a place to cry since she makes me cry pretty much every day. But the random couple hooking up in the stall next door? Not Dana’s fault.

Dana’s normally composed face turns a shade of beet red. I’ve never seen her like this. She looks mortified, and as much as I can’t believe I am going to do this, I take a step forward.  “Dad, please, this isn’t Dana’s fault. I was just…needing a break and sometimes come down here to get away.”

Dana gasps and looks at me, then looks at my father, then back to me. “Dad?” she asks, her voice a shaky squeak just before she collapses into the very tall, and very handsome, man’s arms.

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