Memories of his old life surfaced.

The daredevil danger. Car chases. Dodging sprays of bullets. Renegade justice. An eye for an eye. All that crap. Mercenary glory hadn’t worked out so well for his dad—gunned down and murdered in cold blood, a case the police had never solved.

No life for a man who wanted a secure future. Especially one that included the smart, sophisticated woman a few rooms away. The type of woman Trey had hoped, believed, one day he’d meet. Now that he had, he intended to protect the future he envisioned. Separate and safe from the garbage heap he’d left behind.

With the exception of a lone, obsessed hacker, Trey was so close to everything he wanted, he could taste it. And he planned to taste Devon’s lips again by the end of the night.

An ear-piercing yip startled him.

“Jesus!” Trey leaped back, praying he hadn’t flattened her dog. He bent to investigate, and, to his relief, Peanut appeared intact. “Dude. You can’t sneak up on me like that.”

Peanut’s tongue lolled out the side of his mouth and he rapidly pawed at Trey’s calves.

Trey sighed. He lifted the ten-pound fluffball and held the dog against his palm and forearm. “I’m doing this so I don’t squish you.”

Peanut seemed fine with that arrangement. He blinked behind bangs of white fur, then settled his tiny jaw against the tips of Trey’s fingers. His pink tongue stuck out slightly as though making fun of Trey. He heaved a big sigh for a little dog and closed his eyes. Instant snooze.

Trey took a seat on her white leather sofa, resting his occupied arm in his lap. A minute later, Devon stood beside him and handed him a glass of red wine.

Her eyes glittered with amusement. “You and Peanut look cozy.”

He glanced at his lap, then back at her, and arched an eyebrow. “Jealous?”

“Not as long as I get to sit in your lap later.” She winked.

Hell, yes. Trey considered pitching the dog, grabbing Devon’s waist and pulling her down onto him. But he’d probably offend her and spill wine all over her nice white couch. Later, he promised himself, talking down his erection. “For you,” he said, “there’s an open invitation.”

“Good to know.” A wicked little smile tugged her lips as she reached for her dog. “Let me take Peanut off your hands.”

Peanut gave a disgruntled snort, followed by a pitiful whine. “Ooh, I know, poor baby. Your life is so hard.” She sat beside Trey, and her dog pawed in a circle then collapsed on her thighs. “He likes to snuggle, and we haven’t had guests in a while, so you’re a novelty.”

His glance wandered over her, pausing at her breasts before he met her eyes. “That’s surprising. I figured men would be lined up outside your door.”

She rolled her eyes. “Yeah, it must be a slow week.”

He moved closer to her on the couch. “I don’t mind competition, as long as they know I have first dibs.”

“First and only.”

He clung to a few threads of etiquette, forcing himself not to jump her bones right here. “Lucky me.”

“So I was thinking,” she said, changing the subject. “This hacker isn’t likely to respond to the Hacker Forum posts I planted until later. My favorite band, Voyager, is playing tonight. We should go, get out for a while.”

“You’re sure he won’t be trolling for you now?”

She shook her head. “These online hotspots don’t gain traction until late. Imagine a bunch of nerds gearing up for the weekend, hopped up on Redbull and settling in for an all-nighter. Besides, we won’t be gone that long. It’ll be fun.”

The invitation sounded like a date, like she was asking him out. “You want to leave now?” he replied without a second thought. He’d wanted to ask her out for months.

“We can finish our wine.” She gestured at his full glass. “Oh, and I put the take-out in the fridge for later, if that’s okay.”

The only thing he was hungry for was sitting next to him. “Fine by me.”

“Thanks for bringing dinner.”

“Figured we were in for a long night, though I like the idea of going out someplace. But only if you agree upfront that I’m paying.”

She nodded, glancing at him with a hint of shyness he’d never seen before. “You’re quite the gentleman, aren’t you?”

“That’s the way I was raised.” He thought fondly of his dad and the cracks to the back of his head when Trey missed the opportunity to put a lady first. “My father would roll over in his grave if I ever forgot to open a door for a woman.”

Intrigue glowed in her eyes. “Can I ask you a question?”

“Sure. Anything.”

“What made you leave your bounty hunter business in Las Vegas to come here and buy Logan’s bodyguard company?”

Caught off guard, he ran a hand through his hair. She was the first person to ask that since he’d arrived in Denver. “To be honest—necessity.”

She tilted her head. “How so?”

He liked that she wanted to know more about him, that maybe it meant her attraction to him went beyond the physical.

Thinking about how to phrase it, he slid his palm down his thigh, smoothing the center crease of his suit pants. “Things were getting dark.” He stopped and realized how lame that sounded. He tried again. “You have to understand, we grew up in the environment. Adam and Liam’s dad was my father’s brother. At twenty and twenty-two, they went from blue-collar mechanics to owning their own business. They had young wives and small mouths to feed, and they wanted a better life for us than what they had growing up.”

“I respect that a lot,” Devon said, running her finger along the rim of her wineglass. “My single mom worked in a sewing factory, then came home and started her second job as a seamstress on the side for extra money. It isn’t easy to raise a child on minimum wage, and somehow my mom managed to save enough for me to go to college for two years and supplement my ROTC financial aid.” With the hint of a smile, she held up her hand. “Before you ask, I can’t sew to save my life.”

He shrugged. “Neither can I.”

She threw her head back and laughed. “Well, I won’t hold it against you. Okay, go on. You grew up in that world…”

“Starting their own business was a huge leap for them. We all walked around with that badge of honor.”

“I take it you inherited the family business.”

Tags: Vanessa Waltz Billionaire Bodyguard Suspense