Authors: Victoria Paige
|A Love For Always|
|Victoria Paige Books (2015)|
A LOVE FOR ALWAYS
By Victoria Paige
Copyright © 2015 Victoria Paige
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission.
This book is a work of fiction. The characters, names, places, events, organization, including law enforcement and judicial procedures, either are a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any similarity to any persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, places or locale is entire coincidental. The publisher is not responsible for any opinion regarding this work on any third-party website that is not affiliated with the publisher or author.
Cover Design by
Robin Ludwig Design Inc
Edited by: Hot Tree Editing
What happens when a security expert tries to protect a feisty chef who has a penchant for pissing off the most dangerous elements of the criminal underworld?
Cue the danger and mayhem.
Nathan Reece is a serial dater. Despite his reputation, women can’t seem to resist the challenge to make him commit. But the problem isn’t Nate’s ability to commit. The problem is he’s already given his heart to the girl who got away—twice.
Years ago, Nate and Sylvie had a steamy no-strings-attached affair that ended when his CIA duties called, and Sylvie’s ambitions to become a chef got in the way. Not willing to give each other up, they agreed to a platonic relationship.
When Nate quit the CIA with plans to claim his woman, he again became a victim of bad timing. Sylvie had found someone else, and it was looking more and more likely he would remain in the friend zone forever.
However, fate is up to some mischief and has given him his third chance to make her his.
There is that one tiny problem his lady love has found herself entangled with the Asian Crime Syndicate—a hybrid organization that is a cross between the Yakuza and the Chinese Triad. Will Nate be able to save her? More than one life is at stake, and he must tread carefully between secrets and truth and his duty to country and the woman he loves.
* Strong sexual content and language. Could be read as a standalone. No cliffhanger. Second-chance, friends to lovers romance.
He should pull his head out of his ass and just do it.
Nathan Reece stared at the object of his internal conflict—the person who made the launch party of Blake Security Inc. a success. She was busy directing the catering staff to pack up the food. The party was winding down and the guests were eating dessert.
Nate and his best friend, Travis Blake, pooled their experience and financial resources to open a security firm right in the heart of Washington, D.C. Scanning the room for Travis, he found him talking to a senator.
An impressive turnout of high rollers on the Hill, area businessmen, and foreign dignitaries assured enough buzz to follow this evening’s festivities.
A knot twisted in his stomach. This business venture better work. Nate wanted to lay down roots. He was done with living his life in the shadows. He was done being a ghost. His eyes sought her out again.
She was his friend, but he wanted more.
With purposeful strides, he headed for the petite figure clad in chef attire.
“Make sure to include some of the pasta with the beef medallions,” Sylvie instructed one of her crew. “And don’t forget to label the shellfish.”
As if sensing him behind her, she turned and flashed him the smile that always made his chest lurch. The green irises of her almond-shaped eyes sparkled as they watched him approach.
“Hey, buddy!” Sylvie greeted.
Nate tried not to wince at her “friend-zoning” endearment.
“Firecracker,” he returned warmly. He slung an arm around her shoulders to pull her close, planting a kiss on her temple. “Great job tonight.”
Sylvie snorted a self-deprecating sound. “I should be thanking you big for this. I needed this gig.” Her arms wrapped around his torso, squeezing to emphasize her gratitude. She then leaned away slightly to peer up at him. “So proud of you, Nate. Your own company!”
She gave him another squeeze and was about to pull away when Nate said, “Got a sec?”
Wariness flashed across her eyes, but was quickly replaced with fake enthusiasm. He’d known her for five years, and even though he was frequently on assignment, they had kept in touch, and he had made it a point to hang out with her when he was in town. Besides, he used to work for the CIA. He read people fairly well.
“Uh . . .
I’m kinda . . .” Sylvie hedged.
“Five minutes,” Nate said firmly. He grabbed her hand and tugged her toward the exit.
“Anyone tell you you’re a bully?” Sylvie laughed, although a hint of annoyance laced her tone.
“All the time.”
The hallway outside the function room was empty. Nate pulled her to the end of the corridor and stopped in front of a Palladian window. Muffled strains of the band filtered through the closed doors. He was making her nervous; he could feel it. He stared down at her upturned face. She had the cutest nose and most stubborn chin. They stared at each other for a beat. He had a strong urge to kiss her. He cleared his throat instead.
“Don’t you get a headache with that tight bun on your head?” Nate asked.
. He was feeling a little bit anxious himself.
She predictably rolled her eyes at him. “You brought me out here to discuss my hair?”
Nate chuckled. “No. I wanted to ask you what you were doing tomorrow. Wanna have dinner at my place?”
“Depends,” Sylvie said. “Are you cooking?”
“I’m not the chef.”
“Let me get this straight. You’re inviting me to your house, and yet I’m the one who’s cooking?”
“Sounds like old times, don’t you think?” Nate grinned.
“Well times have changed,” Sylvie informed him. She crossed her arms proudly. “I don’t live in a dinky apartment anymore, so maybe I should cook dinner at
“When did you move?” Nate frowned, not liking how he missed out on this important piece of information.
“Three weeks ago.”
“I talked to you a month ago when we arranged the catering for the BSI launch party.” He raked his fingers through his hair.
“Damn it, Sylvie, I could have helped you with your move.”
“Well, that time you’d just returned from”—Sylvie shrugged—“wherever. And I knew you were busy starting up this new company.”
“I’ll always have time for you,” Nate responded roughly. True. He and Travis were run ragged getting the company into gear, but he could have carved out time. He wasn’t lying about that. He stayed away from her these past weeks because he might inadvertently blurt out what he wanted from her. He didn’t want to put Sylvie in an awkward position since BSI hired her catering company, and Nate knew she needed the money. He thought waiting until after the launch was a good idea. Now he wasn’t too sure.
“Chill, bud. The move was flawless.”
“Okay then,” Nate relented.
“Dinner at your place? Unless you haven’t finished unpacking?” This was turning out better. He could scope out her neighborhood to make sure it was a safe area, although he’d rather she moved in with him.
Christ, Reece! Slow down.
Sylvie would also feel more comfortable on her own turf when he made his intentions known. There had always been that undercurrent of something
between them despite agreeing to a platonic relationship all those years ago.
“Yup.” Sylvie averted her eyes and mumbled. “Maybe Brad can join us so you can meet him.”
Who the fuck is Brad?
It was suddenly hard to breathe. “Brad?”
“Yes, I, uh … ” There was guilt in her voice. Her eyes reluctantly met his. “I’m seeing someone.”
Four years later
Beatrice grinned, leaned over, and pinched his cheek. “Sorry, Nate. Between looking over these documents and monkey sex with my hot fiancé, guess which I’m choosing?”
“TMI, Bee,” Nate grumbled. Great, everyone had sex on the brain. Travis dumped everything on him earlier and rushed home after receiving a text message from Caitlin. Judging from the smirk on Travis’s face, Nate didn’t have to ask him about the nature of the emergency. And now Beatrice’s phone chirped with a text message a few seconds ago. Again, the blush that stole up her face was a dead giveaway. It was the middle of the goddamned week for Christ’s sakes.
“So is this what you guys do nowadays? Sexting?” Nate asked derisively.
“As if you don’t,” Beatrice shot back while shoving her laptop into her computer bag.
Nate quirked a brow. “Well . . .” As if on cue, his phone chimed.
Beatrice laughed. “I guess I’ve made my point. Aren’t you going to check it?”
He shrugged nonchalantly. Contrary to what Beatrice thought, Nate knew for sure it wasn’t a sexy text. Giselle was furious he wanted to move their dinner reservation to a later time. So furious, she called the restaurant and canceled it and informed him if he didn’t show up at his house in the next hour, they were through. That hour had passed.
“Nope,” Nate replied. “Unlike other people, I have my priorities straight.”
A flash of sympathy crossed Beatrice face, so he cut her off before she went into her little speech. “And no, I don’t need to hear it tonight. I’m perfectly happy with my relationship with Giselle.” And his nose just grew a tad longer.
Beatrice opened her mouth as if to say something, but decided against it. Instead, she inclined her head and said, “Right. Well, I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Tell Emily she can go home. I’ll just finish up here a bit,” Nate said.
When the door to his office closed, Nate leaned back in his chair, fished his phone out and winced at Giselle’s message. World War III awaited him at home. Ever since he quit the CIA, he’d been in serial monogamous relationships. Serial being the keyword. Most relationships lasted two months; Giselle lasted longer than most. She was his eighth girlfriend in four years. They’d been together for almost six months, or was it longer? It certainly helped that she was an international model and was frequently out of the country. Except now she’d been sidelined with a sprained ankle and had been home for almost a month. Nate was finding out he could only take Giselle in small doses. She’d been healed for over a week, and he had not so subtly hinted that she should return to work soon.
No dice. She seemed content to play house. Nate cringed.
Maybe it was time to cut her loose, except his girlfriends were usually the ones who broke it off. They’d break up with him hoping he’d make a firmer commitment, like spend more time with them, take them on vacations, and swear undying love. After breaking up with him, they’d always try to worm their way back for a second chance.
By then, Nate had moved on. He never did well with ultimatums.
Now, he was eager to return home and get it over with. He was fairly certain he would be sleeping solo tonight.
The two suitcases in his living room gave him a sense of déjà vu. A familiar scenario. But instead of a redhead or a brunette this time, it was a blonde who was breaking up with him.
Giselle stood in front of her Louis Vuitton luggage, dressed to the nines in a short, clingy dress. Her long legs, plus the low dip in her neckline showcasing quite a bit of cleavage, had the intended effect on the southern portion of his anatomy. Her whole stance screamed, “Look at what you’re going to miss, asshole.” She was really beautiful and the thought of fucking her one last time had its appeal, but he knew it wasn’t worth the stab to his conscience afterward.