He nodded. “Dad gave me my first job the day I got my driver’s license. I became a repo man.”

Devon swallowed the sip of wine she’d taken. “Wait. You repossessed somebody’s car at sixteen?”

“That’s not the best part.” He grinned at the memory. “Keep in mind my dad dropped me off at the site then waited for me down the street. So I sneaked onto the property of the guy who’d defaulted on his payments. He had one of those wide-open yards in the desert littered with half-stripped cars on cinderblocks, engines and mufflers and spare parts scattered everywhere. I spent an hour moving scrap out of the way so I could make a clean break with his car.”

Her eyes gleamed. “You were out there in the desert at night? Did you even have a flashlight?”

“Hell, no. I wasn’t about to give myself away. People go crazy when you try to take something they think belongs to them. Anyway, I finally tiptoed up to the car, picked the lock—you could do that back then—and managed to hotwire the engine. When the beater roared to life, this guy bursts out his front door wearing boots and a robe and ran toward me. I slammed the car in reverse and punched the gas. Then he opened fire.”

Her hand flew to her mouth. “He shot at you?”

“Pumped about six shells into the trunk before I peeled out onto the highway. My dad could barely keep up with me on the drive home.”

“Were you scared?”

“Shitless.” He chuckled. “But when we dropped the car off to the authorities the next day, he slapped me on the back, told me I’d done a great job and he was proud. And that my second repo was waiting for me that night.”

“That’s crazy. Did the family business start out doing repossessions and move into bounty-hunting?”

“Uncle Joey, Adam and Liam’s dad, steered the business in that direction. More lucrative, but also more dangerous. Took a long time to convince my dad, but when the profits started rolling in, he finally got on board. He took over when Uncle Joey died of a heart attack, at thirty-nine. I won’t swear by it, but I think he was so worried about the times when bounty hunting affected his personal life and family, it sent him to an early grave.”

“That’s so sad.” She shook her head. “I can’t imagine doing that every day, constantly looking over your shoulder, waiting for someone to take aim at you.”

He frowned. “It gets old, trust me.”

Devon gazed at Trey with a whole new level of admiration. The courage it must’ve taken for him to earn his father’s approval by joining such a dangerous line of work floored her.

After he swallowed a large gulp of wine, two faint red stains marked his chiseled upper lip like tiny parentheses. She wanted to smooth them away with her thumb, lean over and kiss him, but curled her fingers against her palm instead. She doubted his strong sense of pride would appreciate the gesture, and she didn’t want to distract him from telling the rest of his story.

She asked, “Why did you come to Denver?”

“The God’s honest truth?” He released a heavy sigh and wiped his lips with the back of his hand. “I did it for Cade and Liam. Adam may be too far gone. I haven’t figured that out yet, but I’m sure he’ll let me know. In no uncertain terms.” He huffed a humorless laugh. “Cade has a frigging MBA in business management. His loyalty brought him back to the family business after Dad died, but he deserves the chance to run a real company. And Liam…”

The pained expression on Trey’s face wrung her heart.

“Liam deserves the chance to live out his life in some resemblance of normalcy. He’s only twenty-eight, you know? I won’t let him take a knife to the chest or a bullet to the head in the name of family tradition. And he would, all of us would have, if I hadn’t changed things. From the day Dad died—because he was at the wrong place at the wrong time without backup—I took over the books. I took over everything. I kept the family business running at a huge profit, even though I hated having to bury some of our guys along the way, so I could save up and approach Logan with an offer he couldn’t refuse for his bodyguard business.” Trey tipped his glass back and drank his wine to the last drop. “There’s the long answer to your short question. In all its ugly glory.”

“It’s not ugly, Trey.” She rested her hand on his forearm and squeezed gently, wishing she knew how to reassure him. “That’s true honor. That’s real family loyalty. Creating a new legacy in a safer place can’t be easy, but it seems so worth it in the end.”

His eyes held hers, revealing his personal torment in their dark depths.

Peanut chose that moment to howl. Sprawled on his back in her lap, his little front legs pawed at the air, his muscles twitching. Devon sighed, disappointed but slightly relieved that the spell of their intimate moment had been broken. “Isn’t it so bizarre that dogs can dream?”

Trey revealed a wide grin. “He must be chasing after a buffalo.” Peanut kicked Trey’s thigh. “You get ‘em, tiger. Show them who’s boss in Peanut dreamland.”

Devon snorted. She finished her wine and slid to her feet, resting her dog on the couch to continue chasing bison in his dreams. “Ready to head out?”

“Sure.” He looked relieved, and the mood lightened. “I’ll drive.”

Ten minutes later, as he drove them toward the city limits, she relaxed against the luxury of his convertible Audi’s buttery leather seats. “So where is this place?” he asked.

The warm night wind raced around them, snatching his words and making it difficult to have a conversation. “Turn left at the next light.”

She guided him down a dark side street, and they parked next to the curb outside Jake’s Bar. Trey insisted he get her door, so she waited until he helped her out of his low-riding car.

Pleasure swirled in her belly. The unexpected gesture made her feel special, and she hadn’t experienced that with a man in a long time.

Trey stood with his hands in his pockets, peering at the bar’s disheveled roof and slightly dilapidated entrance. “This is your idea of a big night out?”

“Hey, don’t knock it. This is one of my favorite dive bars.”

“I’d hate to see the others,” he muttered. He scanned her up and down, a territorial gleam settling in his eyes. “You’re dressed for deluxe, not dive.”

“They cater to all kinds. Even uptight guys in suits,” she teased. He was still dressed to the nines in his work attire.

Tags: Vanessa Waltz Billionaire Bodyguard Suspense
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