Read Her 24-Hour Protector Online

Authors: Loreth Anne White

Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #General, #Contemporary

Her 24-Hour Protector (3 page)

BOOK: Her 24-Hour Protector
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“Come,” she whispered against his cheek. He felt her hand sliding down his arm, her fingers gently encircling his wrist. He could feel the warm swell of her breast against his bare torso, the soft champagne breath from her lips against his face, and she lured him, as if manacled, drawing him onto the dance floor. “Just one dance,” she said. “Then I’ll let you know where to pick me up tomorrow night.”

Lex glanced desperately at the massive art deco clock on the wall. The luminous hands showed three minutes to midnight—the average length of a song. He vowed he’d be outta here within those minutes. Then he’d find a way to weasel out of the date. He was convinced she’d set him up. Because what were the odds of this being a coincidence? She’d have to have been living under a rock not to know he was the lead agent on her sister’s homicide case. And under a rock was the last place this casino princess would be.

Then again, as Mr. Skydiver had pointed out, this was Vegas. Weird stuff—magic—really did happen. A gambler could bet a single quarter and pull a slot machine handle, and it would spew out one million dollars. Another could plunk down his life savings and lose his entire fortune with the simple flick of a card.

Luck. Fate. Chance. The only sure thing about Las Vegas was that nothing was sure, nothing predetermined. No one ever knew what could happen next.

It’s what made Sin City so exciting.

So dangerous.

Jenna placed her hands on his hips, guiding him to the rhythm of the beat, and Lex’s brain went blank. His blood began to thump in time with the music. And before he knew it, the trademark Ruby Room clock began to chime. Midnight.

Music halted momentarily for effect, twirly strips of silver confetti shimmering down like crystal rain as the lights strobed white. Like silver, like money. Like magic. The Vegas sleight-of-hand. And Lex knew, on some level, he’d been witched, by a pair of big brown eyes and a goddess body in a shimmering red dress, and it had happened somewhere in those three minutes before the stroke of midnight.

In panic he snagged another shot of tequila, knocked it back, thinking of Dutch courage and skydiving. Because he sure was free-falling right now, out of control, and gaining speed each time Jenna batted those big browns and arched against him.

Chapter 2

T
he DJ amped the music, and the base pulsed deeper. Bodies gyrated, red strobes flashing off glass in the chandeliers, off the red crystals on Jenna’s dress, and the tequila began to work on Lex’s brain, along with his libido.

Truth was, the more Lex looked at her, the more bedazzled he was by Jenna Rothchild. She had the kind of looks that really did it for him—rich chestnut hair that fell in lustrous waves to well below her creamy shoulder blades. Full mouth, painted blood-red, high cheekbones that gave her an air of experienced sophistication—the kind that made a man forget about her youth—and a body worth every bit of wattage in Sin City.
That
made a man hot.

It wasn’t easy to stand out in a place like Vegas—a town of lean, leggy showgirls with spotlight smiles—but this woman did. She was also big money and high maintenance, and for all those reasons, Lex wanted to avoid her like the plague. Never
mind a conflict of interest. Jenna Jayne Rothchild was plain dangerous to him personally as well as professionally.

But as he was about to pull back and extricate himself while he still could, she leaned up and murmured against his cheek. “You feel a little stiff, agent.”

Oh yeah, and she was going to find out just how stiff if she pressed her body any closer to his pelvis. The music wasn’t the only thing hot and pulsing right now.

She used her hands to guide his body in time to the retro beat. “Come on, loosen up a little, move with me, agent. Or are you always wound this tight?”

Unsmiling, he allowed her to move his hips to the primal tempo of the music and be damned if all he could think about was getting her into bed, and moving with her like a real man, naked between the sheets, the way nature intended. It made his head thicker, it made his vision narrow, it made perspiration begin to gleam over his bare chest.

Lex tried to stay in focus, thinking he should never have downed those shots, because he was not feeling himself. Instead, he found himself fixated on her cleavage, the way the neckline of her dress plunged so low that the sparkling fabric seemingly just floated atop her breasts. He had no idea how it stayed there. And he found himself
waiting
for it to slip, lust winding so tight inside him he thought he’d bust. Then as she moved, the diamond teardrop pendant nestled between her smooth breasts at the end of a gold chain, winked at him.

And the thought of the big diamond rock in FBI lockdown suddenly slammed into him. The Tears of the Quetzal. The case he was working.

The homicide.

His job.

He leaned down to tell Jenna he was leaving, but she placed two fingers over his lips and shook her beautiful head. “No,”
she mouthed over the music. Then she leaned up again, whispering in his ear. “Don’t think. Just dance with me. Find my rhythm.” Her voice reverberated softly against his skin, breath warm in his ear as she swayed seductively against him. He felt her hands slide up the sides of his naked torso, lingering over ridges of muscle, exploring his body inch by inch as she moved. A shaft of heat shot clean to his groin and Lex’s breath strangled in his chest. For some reason, Harold Rothchild’s youngest daughter was really working him.

She was trapping him with her magic, and she knew it. And his lust was beginning to feed on itself like a forest fire. Lex was going to have one hell of a time trying to put this carnal genie that had been awakened back into its little bottle.

She moved her mouth toward his, brushing her red lips over his, allowing the barest tip of her tongue to enter his mouth and touch the inner seam of his top lip.

Lex’s world swirled darkly. He opened his mouth, unable to stop himself from tasting her.

And suddenly, another camera flashed, capturing the moment.

Lex blinked, shocked instantly back to reality. He cursed viciously.

He could just see the headlines tomorrow:
Half-Naked FBI Agent in Charge of High-Profile Vegas Homicide Locks Lips on the Dance Floor with Victim’s Younger Sister.

He was toast.

He had to get the hell out of here—and fast.

Lex
lived
for his job. The Bureau, his “kids,” the old Washoe County sheriff who’d pulled him back from the edge when he was being bounced from one foster home to the other—
those
things were his family. And he had no intention of blowing it all over a woman.

Especially
this
woman.

He grabbed her wrist firmly, his jaw tense as he escorted her
brusquely toward the doors. The teeming, dancing crowd of bodies parting in front of him like the Red Sea. He ushered her out into the hall where it was quieter.

The doors shut sullenly behind them.

“You set me up, Jenna. Why?” he demanded. “Did you do this to compromise the case? What’s in it for
you?
” The direct approach, all business, was the only way for Lex to steer himself clear of his own libido right now.

She blinked those impossibly big, sparkling eyes. “I had no idea you were on the case, Lex.”

“You’d have to be living under a rock not to know!”

“I don’t follow all that—” she waved her hand dismissively “—technical stuff.”

He cupped her jaw, lifted it up. “Don’t give me the bimbo spiel, Ms. Rothchild. I suspect you have more intellect stashed in your pretty little head than Mr. Investment Banker with the rose wilting in his teeth back there. What game are you playing? What’re you trying to achieve here? If you’re trying to mess with this case because you have something to hide, I promise you now, I
will
find it.”

She swallowed, pupils darkening reflexively. Heat ribboned through him.

“Look,” he said, his voice coming out an octave lower. “It’s up to you what you do with that quarter million, but I’m outta here.”

“You still owe me a date, Lex.”

“I owe you nothing, Jenna.”

“If you want that money to go to charity,” she said with a defiant tilt of her head, “you’ll spend a few hours with me.”

He glared at her. “An ultimatum? Oh, that’s rich.”

“We had a deal.”

“What we have, Jenna, is a conflict of interest.”

“Not to my mind. And if you don’t play, agent, I don’t give.”
She made a moue, and all he could think about was kissing those full, pouty red lips of hers.

Lex swallowed against the dryness in his throat. And before reengaging his brain, the words came out of his mouth. “One date. That’s it. The money goes to my kids. Then this is done. Over.
Capiche?

“What ever made you think I wanted—” her eyes teased slowly over his bare chest “—anything more?” she whispered. “I did this purely for charity, Lex.”

He muttered something unholy under his breath. Then spun, and stalked off toward the hotel lobby.

Jenna watched him go, admiring the view. His dark-blond hair glinted under the pinprick lights, and his neck was taut. The power in his shoulders transferred with each stride down the corded muscles of his broad back into the waistband of his tailored pants—pants that had been expertly cut to accommodate the rock-hard thighs she’d felt against her body while dancing. And suddenly, this really wasn’t about Daddy and the diamond at all. Not even remotely. This was about Jenna. What
she
wanted…and she wanted him.

Except he appeared immune to her charms. And her money.

Lex Duncan had just tossed down the gauntlet, because Jenna never failed,
especially
when it came to men. She always got what she wanted from a guy, and this one was making her determined to prove her skill.

And Jenna had learned from early childhood how to manipulate the males in her life, starting with her dad.

Her mother, June Smith Rothchild, had died while giving birth to Jenna, and she’d always felt that others in her family, including her father, saw her as somehow responsible for June’s death. And when Jenna and her older twin sisters—Candace and Natalie—had fought, Candace would get nasty and “remind” Jenna she “killed their mom.” These attacks had made
Jenna feel like an outsider in her own family. Not to mention guilty. She’d become a sensitive and lonely child with a driving need to be loved, to please and to be liked.

And as she got older, Jenna sometimes caught her dad watching her in a certain way. It was at those times that Jenna knew she was reminding him of the wife he truly loved and missed. And although Jenna knew her father totally adored her, his feelings about his youngest daughter were complex. On occasion, especially after a few nighttime single malts, Harold would lash out irrationally at Jenna because she reminded him so painfully of June.

Those moments caused Jenna extreme hurt, and it became her goal to do anything she could to keep in her daddy’s good graces. To be liked by him, to be his favorite daughter. He was her rock. Her defense against the twins, against the nasty friends at school, and she’d found that flattery worked. It was the beginning of where Jenna learned to charm males, with very real results. She’d come to realize she could get whatever she needed this way.

It was the same in high school. Because of her seductive beauty Jenna was automatically labeled as promiscuous. So, to stay “cool” and “liked” she pretended to be “bad,” wore the sexy clothes, hung out with the in crowd. And she always managed to hide her giving heart, her sharp intelligence and her genuine sensitivity. No one had ever really gotten to know the real Jenna Rothchild.

And Jenna started to become the person she had so carefully fashioned. Because of this, she continued to attract the wrong sort of men post school, and she continued to escape with parties. Throwing fabulous events became her forte, her way to escape uncomfortable reality, to be the center of attraction—to be
liked.
And she was so good at the parties it grew into a business, her dad eventually hiring her as a key event planner for his major Strip casino—the Grand Hotel and Casino.

But deep down, something was missing. A pit was forming in Jenna’s gut—a longing for a sense of worth, something real. Some value and relevance in the scope of the world. And she’d begun to harbor secret fears that maybe she really had no personality after all. Then with Candace’s murder, the inner Jenna really began stirring, asking questions about what life and money were really all about when it couldn’t buy the kind of happiness her poor beleaguered sister seemed to have been yearning for.

Her dad approaching her for help in Candace’s case was a way to wrest some control of it all. To do
something.

And now there was this bonus—Special Agent Lexington Duncan.

He was pure eye candy. She wanted him and was stunned he’d been able to resist her, especially after she’d coughed up a cool quarter million for his pet charity.

Damn cool solid hunk of granite.

It made her all the more determined and just a little bit vulnerable.

She pushed a wave of hair back from her face, watching him exit the hotel, shirtless. And she allowed amusement to whisper over her lips. Poor devil. He’d thrown his shirt to the crowd of bidding women, and now he was apparently too proud to go back inside to look for something to wear. The FBI agent was left with no choice but to go home half-naked.

Her smile deepened into a grin.

She’d get him.

She’d seal the seduction tomorrow, on their date.

This was just phase one, she told herself. She’d done her reconnaissance, and gotten him here—playing it smart, staging the event away from the Grand Hotel and Casino and keeping her own name off the event ticket.

Enlisting Cassie to approach Lex’s partner, Rita Perez, at the
gym where Rita gave martial arts classes two evenings a week had been the coup de grâce.

Yeah, the date itself would be phase two. And once she was done there, he’d be pure, warm putty in her hands. And that thought sent a hot little tingling zing of anticipation through her belly. She exhaled, pressing her hand against her stomach as she watched the glass revolving door spew him out into the hot desert night. The valet rushed over to him, called for his car.

As Lex passed by on the other side of the big glass windows making his way toward his black SUV he glanced up, caught her watching and scowled.

She smiled sweetly and gave a little wave.

Then she spun on her four-inch heels and sashayed back toward the pulsing Ruby Room. But as she pulled open the doors, she bumped into Cassie coming out.

“Uh-oh,” Cassie said the minute she saw her friend. “You have that look.”

“What look?”

Cassie glanced over Jenna’s shoulder, saw the shirtless cop through the windows getting into his SUV. “Oh, come on, Jenna. Why do you want
him
so bad, when you could have any one of the guys back there?”

Jenna didn’t answer for a minute.

“Ah, wait, I get it.” Cassie’s disarming chuckle bubbled up from her chest. “It’s because he’s immune to the infamous Jenna Rothchild charm, is that it? He doesn’t want
you.
Because he can see right through you, girlfriend.”

Jenna laughed, making light of it while she said goodbye to her friend. But Cassie’s words left a niggling coolness inside her. Maybe Cass was right.

Maybe Lex did see right through her. And he saw there was nothing inside. Nothing under the money and superficial glitz.

Jenna wasn’t sure how to handle this idea. It made her feel
more than just a little bit vulnerable—it made her feel worthless. Maybe she was wrong. Maybe Lex Duncan had nailed the game advantage and she hadn’t won after all.

 

Lex was greeted by a chorus of adult males making the yipping sounds of a small dog as he walked into the bullpen at the FBI’s Las Vegas field office Friday, the next morning.

He glanced at Rita Perez. “What the hell is going on here?”

“She has one of those little purse pooches,” Perez said as Lex removed his jacket.

“What are you talking about?”

Perez slapped a copy of the
Las Vegas Sun
on Lex’s desk. “You and
it-girl.
” She folded her arms across her chest, looking too damn smug for her own Latina good. Lex glanced down and saw the photo he knew he would. The one that showed him half-naked, gleaming with perspiration and kissing the Vegas heiress who was also the youngest sister of his homicide case victim.

BOOK: Her 24-Hour Protector
12.23Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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