“Yeah, Rick mentioned your insistence about France. Didn’t take me long to figure out why.”

Her lips parted. “Do personal boundaries mean anything to you?”

Logan hardened his posture and his tone. “Let me tell you something. If you think an inconvenient verdict would prevent Trevor from getting into the country, you’re dead wrong.”

It was harsh, but he needed to get it through her head what she was up against.

“I’ve tracked down spies, terrorists, and hit men into cities and towns and deserts where, according to law, they should’ve been shot on sight. People like Trevor don’t play by the rules.”

Anxiety twisted her features as she absorbed the hard truth.

“You’ve heard misery loves company? So does evil. Men like your ex have the kind of connections you’d never want to meet in a dark alley. They stick together like hyenas on the hunt for the next carcass to pick clean. Borders and legalities mean nothing to them.”

For a moment she shook like a small porcelain teacup rocked by a 9.0 earthquake.  It took everything in him not to reach for her, reassure her. But some facts needed to shake a person to the core.

She spoke through bloodless lips. “If you’re trying to scare me into staying in the states…it might be working.” The desolation in her eyes hit him hard. “I’m just so tired of being afraid all the time.”

“I know, sweetheart.” His quiet admission seemed to ease her dejectedness. “Do this my way, and you won’t have to anymore.”

Tears lined her lower lashes. “You can’t make promises like that, Logan. No matter how well-intentioned. You can’t prevent something beyond your control.” She lifted her chin. “I may be naïve about the way the criminal mind works, but I’m not stupid or helpless.”

“I agree.” He gave a firm nod. “You’re exceptionally intelligent, with the self-preservation instincts of a porcupine.” He sighed. “You’re a good person in a bad place. I’m offering you the best solution considering the circumstances.”

“Great,” she murmured despairingly. As if he’d driven a four-wheeler over a sandcastle she’d spent years building.

Still, he believed truth was more constructive than a wishful fantasy.

Then she straightened. Hard-eyed daring infused her. “I’ll give you my decision by the end of today.”

“Perfect. I’ll see you at dinner.”

“ Logan .”

“Your choice, of course.” She seemed momentarily appeased as he headed for the door. Until he added a rascal remark, “I’m fine with chicken or steak. But, it’s your call.”

“You are impossible!” She stamped her foot.

“One of my countless charms.” He concealed a grin, hearing her mutters of frustration as he walked out of her office.

Allison never stopped giving him challenges, making his victories all the sweeter. He could almost taste this one. If he had his way, he’d taste her again, too. Soon enough she’d be with him, under his roof and his protection, and eventually in his bed.

*

“Which is worse?” Allison wondered aloud, white-knuckling her steering wheel as she navigated toward Logan’s suburban residence.  “Looking into the hell you’ve known, or facing the devil you don’t?”

Fact was, Logan—as Devon had annoyingly predicted—was her best and only option when it came to fending off her ex. She knew Logan would protect her and the baby, but his high-handed attitude reminded her too much of her Trevor.

Unfortunately, facing an unknown future with a baby on the way, a sweet innocent being who deserved every good thing in life, made Logan’s option a foregone conclusion. There was still a part of her that hadn’t come to grips with the baby-reality. Old emotions from her disappointing childhood surfaced, things she hadn’t wanted to confront.

“No time like the present.” Her breath frosted in the air as she waited for her car to manufacture heat.

At least she’d have her things back. She may not have much to call her own, but what little she possessed meant everything to her. Like the small snow globe she’d begged her father to buy her when she was thirteen—a picturesque scene from the Phantom of the Opera. Their family had lived like kings that year. Her parents had “condescended” to perform in an American play, though set in France. They’d taken the stage at sold-out shows month after month, money poured in, and the three of them had been happy. Happier than she’d ever remembered.

The opposition between darkness and light, love and obsession, stalker and hero had blurred for her that year. She’d nurtured an infatuation for the gorgeous dark-haired actor playing the Phantom. Her first crush, first awakening to desire. She hadn’t known how to deal with all those teenage hormones bouncing around inside her. But she’d related to Christine, the protagonist of the musical. Allison had always imagined a secret admirer putting her unnoticed talent and brilliance above all else. She wanted to be the object of the Phantom’s passion. But that came with a price. As it had with Trevor during the last years of their marriage.

In the beginning, she’d thought Trevor’s attentiveness and possessiveness had been the ultimate expression of devotion. He quickly built his world around her, but she learned fast that being put on a pedestal was a lonely, frightening place. That kind of gap created false expectations. She couldn’t meet him in the middle without falling from her perch. The more time passed, the more Trevor saw her as a person, not the perfect object he’d wanted. The further she fell, the meaner Trevor became. As though she’d deliberately disappointed him at every turn.

She blinked to focus on the winding road before her. Her gut clenched at the memories. Her face flushed, and she realized her car had decided to crank into sauna mode. Her car’s heating system had no in between, it was arctic cold or equator hot. She notched the heat one space to the left and shivered. She couldn’t win.

The difference reminded her of the heat in southern Italy versus the wintry scene portrayed in the snow globe she’d begged her father for during that long-ago Phantom tour.

“That’s silly,” he’d chided with distaste. “We don’t spend money on frivolous trinkets.”

“Please, Papa. Please?”

His indulgent side finally gave in to her. “You better take care of this,” he’d warned as he paid for the item and handed it to her. “I don’t want to trip over it in our dressing room and break an ankle before tomorrow night’s show.”


Tags: Vanessa Waltz Billionaire Bodyguard Suspense
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