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Authors: Cynthia Eden

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Want Me

BOOK: Want Me
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New York Times
and
USA Today
best-selling author Cynthia Eden offers readers a new “Dark Obsession” novel…WANT ME.

She doesn’t play it safe…

Sophie Sarantos has a weakness for dangerous men. She doesn’t like safe lovers—she likes men with a wild, rough edge. But Sophie may have attracted a lover who is
too
dangerous, even for her. Someone is stalking Sophie, slipping into her home, watching her day and night. The stranger seems to know all of Sophie’s darkest secrets, secrets that should
never
be revealed.

Out of options, Sophie turns to ex-solider Lex Jensen for protection. Lex is part owner of VJS Protection, Inc., and Sophie hires him as her bodyguard. She thinks Lex is one of the “good guys” out there, but she couldn’t be more wrong.

He doesn’t play at all…

Lex has his own secrets. Dark, deadly secrets. And as his feelings for Sophie grow, Lex knows that he is going to have to stop pretending to be a gentleman and, instead, he’ll have to show Sophie who he really is. A man trained to kill. A man too used to evil. A man who will take any risk…as long as he can claim Sophie.

Because there is one thing that Lex wants in this world…one person he desires above all others…Sophie. And no one will hurt her, not on his watch.

By Cynthia Eden

This book is a work of fiction. Any similarities to real people, places, or events are not intentional and are purely the result of coincidence. The characters, places, and events in this story are fictional.

Copyright ©2014 by Cindy Roussos

Cover art and design by: Pickyme/Patricia Schmitt

Proofreading by: Diana Cox of Novel Proofreading

Table of Contents
Want Me
Author’s Note
About The Author
Prologue

Sophie Sarantos woke instantly, knowing that she wasn’t alone. Some sound had reached her—a rustle, a creak—
something
that had pushed through the fog of sleep and brought her to consciousness. She didn’t waste time screaming. Instead, she reached for her nightstand, desperate to grab the weapon she kept hidden there.

But her fingers never touched the nightstand drawer. Because
he
caught her hand. Trapped her hand in a hard grip. Powerful. Too strong. His fingers were encased in a leather glove and that one glove held her right hand trapped while his other hand—also covered in that leather—closed over her mouth.

“Don’t scream, Sophie, you know I’d never hurt you.”

No, no, she didn’t know that. She knew she was in a dark room with a strange man. A man who’d broken into her home in the middle of the night.

But she didn’t fight. She lay still as her mind flashed through a dozen different escape scenarios. She’d had plenty of self-defense classes.

I have to get away from him.

“I was worried about you,” he said. He was leaning over her. A big, hulking shadow in the darkness. “I heard what that bastard did to you.” His voice was a low, gruff rasp.
Disguised?
“I had to make sure you were safe.”

This wasn’t happening. She wanted it to be a bad dream, as she’d wanted so many other terrible moments from her past to just be nightmares, too. But they weren’t. Her reality was dark and ugly and twisted.

“I’m going to kill him,” he swore in that low, rasping voice.

Sophie shook her head. She couldn’t speak, not with that glove over her mouth.

“I’ll kill anyone who hurts you. Anyone who gets too close. You belong to me, Sophie. Always.”

The hell she did. And Sophie lunged up. Her head slammed into his. She wanted to break the bastard’s nose. Wanted him
off
her.

He staggered back. Sophie seized that opportunity for freedom. She lunged off her bed and ran for the door.


Sophie!
” Her name was a roar of fury.

She yanked open her bedroom door, but he caught her before she could go down the stairs. His painful grip hurt and she felt the press of a blade against her side.

“You shouldn’t run from me,” he muttered, his breath hot on her neck. “Never me. Not after all I’ve done for you.”

Screw that. She drove her elbow back against him, as hard as she could. He grunted and his hold loosened for one precious moment. She took that moment and flew toward her staircase.

But he grabbed for her again and she had to twist at the last moment. She stumbled and down, down she went, tumbling and bouncing over those stairs. It
hurt
, but she didn’t care, because when Sophie crashed at the bottom of the stairs, she managed to actually get to her feet and run for the door. Her whole body ached, but she was moving and then she was
outside.
The cold, crisp DC air hit her.

His footsteps thundered behind her. Sophie didn’t look back. “Help me!” she screamed as she ran forward.. She could see the lights from a car approaching on the street. Sophie ran toward those lights, waving her hands. “
Help me!

The car stopped with a loud screech of its brakes. A man jumped out of the vehicle. “Miss, miss…are you all right?”

Hell, no, she wasn’t all right. She grabbed his coat, clenching it in her fists. “Call the police.
Now.
” She finally glanced back toward her home, the brownstone that had been hers for the last few years. It was dark. Menacing. The front door had been shut.
He
shut it. He’d closed it after she ran outside.
Because I know I left it open.

He’d shut the door, and he was…waiting for her inside.

***

“We’ve searched thoroughly,” Detective Faith Chestang said as she sighed and faced Sophie, “but we can’t find any sign of an intruder.”

Sophie stood on her porch. She hadn’t wanted to go back into the house, not until the cops were done.
Not until they brought that guy out in cuffs.
Only the police hadn’t brought out any perp. And now Faith, a woman Sophie respected, was standing there saying they’d found no sign of him, and…
she’s looking at me as if I might be crazy.

Sophie’s chin jerked up. “He was here.”

Faith took a slow step toward her. “I know these last few weeks have been hard on you,” Faith murmured, her words only carrying to Sophie and not to the uniformed officers still in the area. “Daniel Duvato attacked you in your own home.”

Daniel Duvato.
Just the man’s name infuriated her. Yes, he’d attacked her all right. Right in Sophie’s brownstone. He’d knocked her out, given her a lovely new scar when he shattered a lamp over her head, and he’d left her there.

In a home slowly filling with gas.

“You know how victims are,” Faith continued, and Sophie stiffened at her sympathetic tone. “Flashbacks are common. It’s—”

“I’m not suffering from some kind of post-traumatic stress,” Sophie snapped back. “There was a man here, in my bedroom. I woke up, and he was standing over me. He had on leather gloves. He touched me. He…he had a knife.”

“Did you see his face?”

“It was dark. I just had an impression of size. He’s big.” She remembered the feel of his arms around her. “Strong.”
Dangerous.

“If he wore gloves, you know we won’t find any prints.”

Sophie’s shoulders straightened. Yes, she knew that.

“And there’s no sign of any forced entry. With the exception of the front door, all of your windows and doors were locked when the cops arrived.”

“He was
here,
” Sophie said and even to her own ears, she sounded a bit desperate.

Faith rocked back on her heels. Her badge—clipped to her belt—gleamed dully in the faint light on the porch. “I’ll keep a patrol in the area tonight.”

Forget that. Sophie would be finding a hotel room for the rest of the night. She turned away from Faith and stared out into the darkness. “He said that he planned to kill Daniel Duvato.”

Silence.

Sophie swallowed. “He said that he was worried about me. That he had to make sure I was safe.” Her hand dropped to her side. Her pajama top had torn—no, not torn. The knife had sliced it open. She’d been lucky that the blade hadn’t sliced into her skin. “But you don’t keep someone safe with a knife.”
You bring a knife in the middle of the night when you want to hurt someone.

“I’ll make sure Daniel’s guards are aware of the threat against him,” Faith promised her. “And I’ll get my team to do another sweep.”

But Sophie already knew that sweep would turn up nothing. Her attacker had been too well prepared.

Gloves. A knife. Just what all had he planned for me?

She looked over her shoulder at the detective.

“When he spoke,” Faith said slowly, “did you recognize his voice?”

“He was mostly rasping. Whispering.” And she
had
wondered if he was trying to disguise his voice. Sophie shook her head. “No, I didn’t recognize it.”

“A woman in your position has probably made a lot of enemies over the years.”

My position?

“Maybe one of those enemies is closing in.” Faith took another step toward her. The porch creaked beneath her. “Getting yourself some protection might not be a bad idea. At least, not until I can figure out what’s going on.”

Protection. Sophie eased out a slow breath. “And let me guess…you have a recommendation for me, don’t you?”

Faith nodded. “I happen to know a few men who might be able to help you out in a situation like this one.”

She already knew exactly who those men were, even before Faith said—

“VJS Protection. If Chance, Lex, or Dev are on the case, you’ll stay safe.”

Her heart raced even faster in her chest. She was familiar with VJS Protection, and with one of those men in particular.
Lex.
“I’m not exactly high on their friend list.”

“If you’re a paying client, they’ll take the job. No matter what you’ve done in the past.”

Ah, but Faith had no idea just what Sophie had done. She didn’t know about all of the very twisted and deadly secrets that Sophie carried with her.

And those secrets might just be worth dying for.

Or killing for?

Sophie licked her lips. “I’ll call Lex.” Even though he made her too nervous, too aware.

She’d call him. She’d use him.

Because she had no intention of being anyone’s victim ever again.

Chapter One

A man wasn’t supposed to look at a woman and instantly need her. Instantly want her. Instantly imagine her naked and moaning his name.

A man was supposed to be civilized. He was supposed to keep his control.

He wasn’t supposed to salivate.

But when Sophie Sarantos strolled into Lex Jensen’s office, his control started to splinter. Maybe it was her high heels. Little black spikes that screamed sex appeal. Maybe it was the perfect expanse of her legs, revealed so well in that pencil skirt she wore. Maybe it was her breasts, nice and firm and pushing against the front of her blouse.

Or maybe it was her face—sheer fucking perfection. Heart-shaped, with sharp, fantastic cheekbones. Her lips were full and currently painted a sleek, wet red. And her eyes—no other woman in the world had eyes like she did. A shade of blue that he’d once thought shouldn’t be legal. Blue eyes that looked at him and seemed to stare straight into his battered soul.

“Thanks for seeing me,” Sophie said.

His cock jerked.
The woman’s voice is made for sin.
He had started to imagine that voice, late at night. Whispering his name.

Get your shit under control, man! She’s a client!
Or, at least, a potential one. Lex kept his position behind his desk and motioned to the chair across from him. “Why don’t you take a seat?”

“I prefer to stand.”

He almost smiled. Of course Sophie would say that.
Of course
she’d start pacing a bit angrily—nervously?—in front of his desk. The first time he’d met her, he’d been aware of the energy bubbling just beneath her surface. He’d heard others talk about Sophie having ice in her veins. He didn’t buy that story for even a minute. She was barely contained fire—fire that was building inside and waiting to explode.

She headed toward the window that looked out over the busy DC street. “Protection. Discrete. Assured. That’s what you offer here, right?”

He lifted a brow. “We think of it as the save-your-ass-protection type.” His gaze slid to her ass. Such a very nice one it was. But he made himself lift his gaze once more. She wasn’t there for him to ogle her. She was there because— “You got someone who needs protection?” His mind slid through the possibilities. Maybe she had a client who’d pissed someone off. Sophie was one of the best defense attorneys in the area. The more high profile the case, the more likely it was that she’d be in the courtroom. He could easily see her clients needing some—

“I’m the one who needs the protection.” She turned toward him. “Me. I’d be the client who needs that ‘save-your-ass-protection’ that you just mentioned.”

Anger sliced through him. A hot, savage blade of fury. “You?” He stalked from around his desk even as the muscles in his body hardened. “Why? What the hell is going on?” Sophie wasn’t supposed to be in danger. He’d saved her weeks before. Pulled her out of that gas-filled brownstone. Lex had held her limp body in his arms and felt things—hell, things he had no business feeling. Emotions that he absolutely did not want to analyze. They’d been too dark. Too disturbing.

I wanted to kill the bastard who’d hurt her.

“How much is your fee?” Sophie asked.

“What?” He shook his head and kept closing in on her. “Screw the fee. Tell me what’s going on.”

But she reached into her handbag—a sleek, expensive little number—and drew out a checkbook.

“Sophie…” Lex growled her name.

She had the checkbook in hand and she was scrawling fast. He reached for her.

She slapped a check in his hand. “Ten thousand dollars. Let’s call that a retainer fee. You’re working for me now.”

His eyes narrowed. The woman was getting under his skin. Before she could pull her hand away from his, he curled his fingers around hers, crushing the check between them. “Why don’t you start,” he managed from between clenched teeth, “by just telling me what the fuck is going on?”

Sophie’s brilliant blue gaze searched his. “I think I need some ‘save-your-ass- protection’ from you,” she whispered. “And now that you’re working for me, legally, well, I feel safer telling you certain things.”

His temples began to throb.

“It would really help,” Sophie continued, pausing to bite her lower lip, “if you signed a non-disclosure agreement. Do you think—”

He yanked her up against him. His right hand kept hers trapped while his left wrapped around her waist. Sophie was a delicate woman. Small. Fragile. He kept forgetting that because of the furious energy that filled the air when he was near her. He had to be careful with Sophie. Had to remember that she was breakable.

He never wanted to break her.

“Screw a non-disclosure agreement,” he told her bluntly. “At VJS Protection, our loyalty is to the client. One hundred percent. You need protection? Then, sweetheart, I guarantee you’ll have it.”

She was still biting her lip. He wanted to bite. He wanted to taste. He wanted to make her moan for him.

And, sooner or later, he’d do all of those things.

But now…

“Who is after you, Sophie? Tell me who the bastard is, and I’ll take care of him.” Because it enraged him to think of anyone hurting her.

“That’s the problem,” Sophie told him quietly as she stopped nibbling that lip. “I don’t know who he is. I need you to find out. I need you to stop him. And I need you to make sure I stay safe until he can’t reach me any longer.”

Sophie was scared. He hadn’t seen the fear before, but now, he could feel it in the slight tremble of her body. Such a faint tremble, but she was flush against him, so there was no missing it. No missing the quiver of her lower lip. The hitch in her breathing.

His rage built higher.

Sophie shouldn’t be afraid.

“Let me go,” she told him.

Lex caught himself shaking his head. His fingers had tightened on her. But he wasn’t supposed to do that. He definitely wasn’t supposed to get all possessive and protective with a client.

But I am.

He forced himself to take a deep breath, and when he did, her scent sank into him. Strawberries. Sweet damn strawberries.

The woman was going to drive him utterly insane.

His fingers slipped away from her. He took a step back and shoved her check into his pocket. Then Lex crossed his arms over his chest—the better to stop touching her—and he locked his glare on Sophie. “I can’t help you, not unless I know exactly what is going on.”

Her gaze slid away from his. “I woke up last night to find a man standing over me.”

What. The. Fuck?
He took a quick step toward her, but then caught himself.

“He grabbed me. He was…wearing gloves. He put one hand over my mouth.” Her hand lifted and touched her lips, as if she were remembering the attack. “My alarms didn’t go off. All those stupid, fancy alarms I had installed after Daniel’s attack—they were utterly useless. I woke up because…well, I heard him, I guess. I opened my eyes, and he was just there.”

Every part of his body burned with rage. “What did he do to you?” Now that he looked at her more closely, he could see that her makeup was a bit heavier than what she’d worn before. Her cheek…was that a bruise there? Yes, shit, it was. High on her cheekbone.

“I fought him off, but he caught me at the top of the stairs.” Her hand dropped back to her side. “I fell and tumbled right down those steps. I didn’t break anything, so I was lucky. I managed to get out of the brownstone, and I hailed down a car outside.”

He uncrossed his hands. Lowered them to his sides. Instantly, his hands clenched into fists. Some sonofabitch had been in her house?

“By the time the cops arrived, there was no sign of him. Hell…” She jerked a hand through her hair, sending the heavy, dark mane sliding over her shoulders. “Detective Chestang couldn’t find any indication that the guy had ever been there. At first, she even tried to hint that maybe I’d just imagined him, because of Daniel.”

Just the mention of Daniel’s name had him seeing red. That guy had hurt too many people before the cops had thrown him behind bars.

Hurt. Killed.

Now it’s your turn to suffer, Daniel.

“I didn’t imagine my attacker,” Sophie continued with grim pride. “He was there, spouting some bull about needing to make certain I was safe. And he said—he said he was going to kill Daniel for what he’d done to me.”

Now his brows shot up. “The guy said that to you?”

“He promised me.” She pushed back her shoulders. “I don’t want that. I don’t want anyone killing for me.” Her gaze burned as she stared up at him.

“Tell me more about your attacker,” Lex ordered softly.

“I never saw his face. I didn’t recognize his voice. He was whispering, rasping, so I don’t think that
was
his real voice.”

Lex waited.
If he disguised his voice, then that means he was afraid you would know him. Shit, it means you do know him.

“He shouldn’t have been in my house.” Her breath whispered out. “He had a knife.”

For an instant, he didn’t move at all. Or, at least, he didn’t think he had. But Sophie tensed and then she backed up a step, her gaze widening a bit as she stared at him. “Lex?”

He should unclench his fists. He should give her some kind of reassuring smile. But he was too busy choking back his fury. “You didn’t mention his knife before.”

Again, she took a small step back. “If he wanted to keep me safe, why break in during the middle of the night? Why come armed with a knife?” She wrapped her arms around her stomach. “I know evil, Lex. I know it intimately. And I know that man, last night…he is very, very dangerous.”

Because the guy sounded like an insane asshole. One who was fixated on Sophie. Maybe it was one of her clients. Maybe it was an obsessed ex. No matter
who
the prick was, Lex would be stopping him.

“VJS…” Sophie murmured. “You guys are the ones who cleared Ethan.”

Ethan Barclay. The guy with enough dangerous connections of his own to make Lex’s gut knot. He didn’t like Ethan. Yeah, they’d proved the guy was innocent in the stalking of another client—a client who just so happened to now be engaged to Lex’s best friend, Chance Valentine—but they sure as hell hadn’t proved that Ethan was
good.
Just that he hadn’t been guilty in that particular case.

Unfortunately, during the course of their investigation, Lex had learned another thing about old Ethan. The guy was Sophie’s fucking BFF. “Why aren’t you turning to him?” The question came out, and yeah, he was man enough to know it was fueled by jealousy. He didn’t like the connection that Sophie had with Ethan. Not one bit.

She looked away. “I don’t want Ethan knowing about this situation.”

A man broke into her house, with a knife, and that was a
situation?

“I’m hiring you for your discretion.”

“And here I thought it was because you wanted me watching your ass.”

For just an instant, her full lips twitched a bit. “That too.”

He’d never seen her smile. Not
really
smile. The punch in his gut told him that if he did see that, hell, he’d be in serious trouble.

But the faint twitch in her lips had already vanished. “Ethan doesn’t know about what happened last night. My colleagues don’t know. I want things to stay that way. We keep this confidential. You keep me safe and your associates…” She waved her hand toward the closed door to his office. “They work with you to track this guy. When we have evidence, we’ll turn it over to the cops, and I’ll get back to my normal life.”

“And until that normal life returns?” Lex pushed. “You’re going to have me at your side, day and night, and you don’t think anyone will get suspicious about that when—”

“My colleagues know we met weeks ago. When you were investigating Ethan.” Her head inclined toward him. “And when you saved my life.”

He waited.

“Thank you for that, by the way,” she said, her cheeks tinging a bit with color.

“You’re welcome.”

Her gaze slid from him, then slowly returned. “If anyone asks, we’ll just say that we’ve continued seeing each other. That we’ve become lovers.”

Her voice didn’t change. Neither did her expression. But Lex changed. The fire inside of him wasn’t about fury any longer. It was about pure, unadulterated need. Because he’d been fantasizing far too much about being Sophie’s lover in the last few weeks. Dreaming about her. Thinking too often of her.

“Does that plan work for you?” Sophie asked.

Seriously, did it
work?

She offered her hand to him. “If so, then we can have a deal.”

It wasn’t a deal, but he knew that was the way Sophie thought, in terms of deals and contracts. But life wasn’t always like that. Still, he closed that last bit of distance between them and curled his fingers around hers. Her hand was so soft, so small in his. And when he touched her, a sensual thrill shot through him. Because he was watching her so closely, he saw the slight widening of her eyes. The faint flare of her nostrils.

It was good to know that Sophie responded to him. It would make things so much easier.

“Deal,” he whispered as his hold tightened on her.

***

“Sophie Sarantos is our client?” Devlin Shade asked as soon as he entered the conference room. Lex was already inside, along with the third partner in their growing firm, Chance Valentine.

VJS Protection. V for Valentine, J for Jensen, and S for Shade. They hadn’t bothered coming up with some clever name for their business. They didn’t need a clever name. They offered protection, plain and simple.

They also hunted.

“She is now,” Lex agreed quietly. “Some jerk broke into her place last night and scared her.”

“Scared
her?
” Dev repeated as his brows rose. He glanced over his shoulder at the closed door. “I’ve heard stories about that woman. I think sharks are afraid of her.”

Lex’s jaw locked. “He had a knife.” Now he turned his gaze on Chance. Chance had been silent for the last few moments, as was the guy’s usual style. Chance was the old strong and silent type, while Lex was the one who usually went running straight into danger.
The unrestrained and wild type.
Yeah, he knew his issues. “And, according to Sophie, the guy made a threat while he was there.” Threat or promise, Lex still hadn’t decided which yet. “He told her that he’d kill Daniel Duvato.”

BOOK: Want Me
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