Authors: Melody S. Monroe
Orphaned at age seven, Stone Watson is befriended by a mob family. After college, he distances himself from the family to become an FBI agent. When the mob boss is executed for murder, the jury members are killed one after another. Stone’s duty and principles are tested when the mob boss’s son is implicated. Susan Chapman, prosecuting attorney for the case, is threatened, and Stone is assigned as her bodyguard. Susan’s long legs, smoking hot bod and take-charge attitude shatter his self-control, and he struggles to maintain his professional distance and impeccable judgment.
Susan’s bodyguard comes with a chiseled chest, tight abs and mysterious chocolate eyes. She can’t believe her good luck until events cause her to question his loyalty. Can she look beneath the surface events to see who he really is? Can she afford to?
Contemporary, Romantic Suspense
Melody S. Monroe
Siren Publishing, Inc.
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A SIREN PUBLISHING BOOK
IMPRINT: Erotic Romance
Copyright © 2011 by Melody S. Monroe
E-book ISBN: 1-61034-568-1
First E-book Publication: August 2011
Cover design by Jinger Heaston
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Copyright © 2011
“You forgot, didn’t you?” Susan Chapman’s best friend, Anne-Marie, stood at the front door of Susan’s DC home wearing a pink-and-orange ski cap with a matching scarf bundled around her neck.
The damp winter air poured inside the house, sending chills down Susan’s arms. “I’m sorry. You know me, every time I prosecute another scumbag, I lose brain cells.”
“No sweat.” Anne-Marie ducked inside the foyer, leaned over, and planted a cold kiss on her cheek. “You do remember the ArtStor’s corporate VPs are flying in as we speak? I can’t fit them all in my tiny four-seater, so can we still exchange cars for the day?” She spoke as fast as a New Yorker.
“Sure.” A promise was a promise, not to mention she could never repay Anne-Marie for the support she’d provided after her recent divorce.
Anne-Marie dangled a worn Volkswagen key over Susan’s palm and let go. “Enjoy.”
Her muscles tensed. “You got the radiator hoses fixed, right?”
Anne-Marie rolled her eyes. “Yes.” Her friend swiped the key ring with the big “C” from the side table. “Can’t be late. Gotta go.”
“Good luck and drive safely.”
And please don’t tailgate.
“Always do.” Anne-Marie blew air kisses over her shoulder. “Love you, sweetie.”
“I love you, too.”
Her friend dashed across the porch and down the steps to Susan’s prized possession. The Mercedes had been the last gift from her father before he died and would always hold a special place in her heart.
A flurry of snow danced in. Before enough flakes accumulated to make a snowman, she closed the door and hurried into the warm living room. Susan peered out the bay window, waiting to see if the temperamental Mercedes started in the freezing temperature. Anne-Marie climbed into the front seat, smiled, and waved.
As Susan raised her hand, the sound of an explosion ripped through the air and a huge ball of fire engulfed the car. Disbelief and horror paralyzed her as chunks of metal and glass propelled toward the house and shattered her living room window. The boom rocked her eardrums, and the powerful force shoved her backwards, sucking the air from her lungs. A million pieces of glass attacked her all at once, cutting her arms, her face, her chest.
Her head hit the living room’s hardwood floor, and a grunt ripped from her throat.
Oh my God.
Her vision turned black.
* * * *
“Can you hear me?” A man’s deep, rich voice sliced through the silence and a warm, rough palm covered her hand.
Daddy? He loved to hold her hand when she was little, his touch tender, comforting, caring. But this couldn’t be Daddy. He was dead. Or was he here to take her to heaven?
Not Daddy. Why couldn’t she see the man? What was happening? Susan tried to ask, but the words wouldn’t come out.
“Can you move a finger for me?” His no-nonsense voice held concern mixed with some fear.
Anyone could move a finger. She struggled to lift her pinky, only the finger refused to budge. Why couldn’t she do what he’d asked?
He nudged her arm gently at first, then harder. She strained to twitch a knee, a foot, or even a toe. Anything. As hard as she tried, nothing moved. Her breaths came out faster and faster.
“Wake up.” His tone had turned harder, more desperate.
She was awake. Her heart rattled against her chest. The strong smell of disinfectant registered, and the soft, constant beeps along with the whoosh of air finally penetrated her fogged brain. Her body tensed. She must be in a hospital.
Mustering every ounce of effort, she cracked open her right lid. The image on the ceiling-mounted television flickered above her, the glare stabbing her eye. She could see!
Her muscles unlocked one by one, and she was able to wiggle her toes and her fingers. Mouth drier than a sand trap, she cleared her throat.
She turned toward the strong, assured voice and cringed as a sledgehammer pounded against her skull. Whiskey-brown eyes hovered above her. The rest of the man’s strong face and body moved in and out of focus, but his eyes remained clear.
She licked her dry lips and blinked. The tall stranger, whose broad shoulders strained against his gray T-shirt, held out a cup of ice chips. When she raised her arm to take the cup, searing pain stabbed her chest. “Th–thank you.” Her voice sounded raspy, but she was thrilled she could finally speak.
“Easy does it.” He lifted the cup to her lips. “Nice and slow.”
He smiled, and she nearly forgot to suck on a chip. The cool ice melted against her parched throat. “Wh–what happened?”
His smile disappeared. “You don’t remember what the doctor told you?”
Her belly soured. She’d talked to a doctor? “No. I just woke up, remember?” If this was a joke, she didn’t appreciate it.
The stranger shifted his weight. “Someone placed a bomb under the hood of your car. The debris from the explosion injured you.”
“That was real?” She thought she’d dreamt the flames bursting from the car window, the glass spewing in every direction, and the unforgettable stench of gasoline and burnt rubber. She gulped in a mouthful of air.
Oh my God
. Her pulse raced. “Anne-Marie is dead, isn’t she?”
His gaze dropped. “I’m sorry.”
The reality of her best friend’s death sent a sludgy dread through her veins. A giant sob erupted. They’d been together since second grade.
The man leaned forward and handed her a tissue. If only she hadn’t agreed to loan Anne-Marie her car, her friend would still be alive. Minutes passed, and yet the man said nothing more. Maybe he was waiting for her to get a grip. She wiped her tears away, and a quick flash of recognition pricked the back of her mind. “Do I know you?” If she didn’t remember speaking with the doctor, maybe some other part of her memory had died.
His pupils contracted. “No.”
She dropped her gaze and zeroed in on the gun snuggled in the stranger’s shoulder holster. Her heart pinched tight. “Are you with the DC police?” Given the weapon, short hair, and muscular body, her assessment made sense.
His jaw slackened. “I introduced myself after the doctor came in.”
Damn. Why had her memory picked today to fail? “I’m sorry. I don’t remember.”
“That’s understandable.” He placed the cup on the side table and brought one of the two chairs close to her bed. “I’m Special Agent Stone Watson. FBI.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Agent Watson sat on the padded chair and leaned forward, his wrists dangling over his knees. “Tell me what you do remember.”
She turned her head away from him, not wanting to relive the horrific event. “I want to find the bastard who did this to Anne-Marie.” She failed to keep her cheeks dry.
“So do we, but we need your help. Do you have any idea who would want to harm you?” he asked in a soft voice.
She squeezed her eyes shut, locking in fond memories of Anne-Marie. “Every felon I’ve put behind bars for the last seven years could have wanted me dead.”
“Does the name John Caravello mean anything to you?”
She tightened her grip on the sheet. “The state recently executed him after he sat on death row for six years. The FBI must be aware I know him. I was the prosecuting attorney for the case.”
“I wanted to be sure you remembered.”
She turned back toward him. “I’d never forget that trial.” The thought of Caravello left a bitter taste on her tongue.
The agent didn’t say anything for a moment. “You had some brain trauma as a result of the blast, and your memory could be affected. In fact, the doctors had to induce a coma to let you heal.”
“A coma?” Her stomach muscles clenched. “How long was I out?”
“Almost two weeks.”
Two weeks? Her airway constricted. Dear Lord. She retested her memory regarding her recent cases, the names of her coworkers, even the date she paid her mortgage. All seemed in order, unlike moments before.
“Why so long?” In that time, Anne-Marie’s funeral would have come and gone. Poor George and their little girl. She should have been there for them. “Will I be okay?” Unlike her friend who would never hold her baby again.
“Let me get the doctor. Now that you’re alert, you might understand what he has to say.”
Understand? He left before she could question him. Was her prognosis so horrible he didn’t want to be the bearer of bad news?
A few minutes later, a short, bald man strode in, along with a nurse dressed in bright purple scrubs. Agent Watson remained ramrod straight by the door. If she’d met him under normal circumstances, she might be fixing her hair and trying to catch his eye. Not now. She wanted to pull the sheet over her head and hide.
“I’m Doctor Dalton.” He didn’t smile, but his voice sounded kind.
The agent must have relayed her inability to recall the doctor’s previous visit. “How badly am I injured?”
The doctor stepped next to her bed. “You had a nasty contusion from the blow to the back of your head that caused your brain to swell. You also received a large gash on your cheek, some glass cuts and small burns on your arms and a rather severe wound above your right breast where a piece of glass impaled you.” Before she could get any details on her recovery, he leaned over and flashed a harsh light into her eyes. She jerked her face to the side, and he stood back. He adjusted his glasses and scribbled something on her chart before looking up. “Other than needing some time to heal and plastic surgery to repair your face, you’ll make a full recovery.”
Plastic surgery? She touched the gauze pads on her cheek. She didn’t want to sound vain, but her livelihood depended on her ability to relate to others. If she was horribly disfigured, she’d…what? Give up? Never. A little scar wouldn’t stop her from doing her job.
“I’ll have the nurse bring in a hand mirror, but you won’t be able to see much with the bandages. You’ll need a few months to heal before we can discuss reconstructive surgery.”
“Okay.” Okay? How lame was that? She should be demanding more information, but she had no energy to deal with her needs right now.
The doctor said something to the nurse who scanned Susan’s wristband and pushed the touch pads on the IV. “You’ll feel better shortly.”
Too bad the medication couldn’t numb the pain of losing her best friend.
The doctor turned to the agent. “Don’t ask too many questions. She needs to rest.”
Agent Watson nodded.
Once the doctor and nurse slipped out, Susan turned back to the Federal agent. “I need to find out who killed Anne-Marie more than I need to rest.”
“You heard the doctor.”
She gritted her teeth. The image of the bastard, John Caravello, smiling on the stand burned a hole in her heart. He’d killed a whole family to keep the father from spilling the beans about Caravello’s money-laundering scheme. He might be dead, but she wouldn’t put it past his sons or a member of his cartel to exact revenge on anyone connected to the death row verdict.
Agent Watson sat back down on the chair next to her bed. Lines formed around his full mouth and gentle eyes. She blinked hard, trying to remember where she’d seen his face but came up blank. “Do you think there’s a connection between Caravello’s execution and the car bomb?”
When Caravello had walked out of the courtroom with his head held high, he’d literally spit at her. She wouldn’t put anything past him or his family.
The agent scrubbed a hand down his unshaven jaw. “We’re not sure who’s to blame, but in the last few weeks, four of the twelve jurors who helped convict him have turned up dead.”
How?” Questions tumbled through her brain. “It can’t be a coincidence that after six years, four die right after his execution.”
She pressed her eyes shut, trying to picture those on the jury, but the faces had blurred. “I need to review my case files. Maybe I can find something to help pin these murders on someone in his family.”
She could have sworn he flinched.
“You need to rest.”
She pushed to a sitting position, swung her legs off the bed and swayed from the light-headedness.
Stone Watson leaned forward and lifted her legs back into bed, his touch burning the back of her legs. “Do I need to order restraints?” He loomed over her.
“No.” Who did he think he was? He acted like she was the criminal. “Why are you here anyway?”
“We think you might be next.”
She pulled the sheets to her chest. “Me?”
He raised a brow. “Your arguments got him the death penalty.”
“His murders got him the death penalty.”
Dear Lord. Could his family really want revenge? Stupid question. A criminal her father had prosecuted had murdered him. The image of her father’s body with a hole in his chest slammed across her mind. The chaos she’d lived through during the last two years was happening again. If he couldn’t protect himself, how could she avoid the same fate?