Rules of Protection (Tangled in Texas)

By: Alison Bliss

Some rules are meant to be broken...

It’s rule breaker Emily Foster’s birthday, and like everyone at The Jungle Room, she just wants to get some action. Unfortunately, she stumbles on the wrong kind, witnessing a mob hit. To protect her, she’s entered into the Witness Protection Program with by-the-book Special Agent Jake Ward as her chaperone.

When the location of their safe house is compromised, Jake stashes Emily deep in the Texas backwoods. The city-girl might be safe from the Mafia, but she has to contend with a psychotic rooster, a narcoleptic dog, crazy cowboys, and the danger of losing her heart to the one man she can’t have.

Jake’s as hot as he is infuriating, and she can’t help but push all his buttons to loosen him up. Their mutual, sizzling sexual attraction poses a dilemma: Jake’s determined to keep her safe and out of the wrong hands; she’s determined to get into the right ones—his.

For Denny, Matthew, and Andrew, the three loves of my life.

Chapter One

I caught him eyeing me from across the room.

He was tall, dark, and…well, interested. I couldn’t get a good enough look to see if he was handsome. Although dim lighting obscured his face, it highlighted the thick, gold chain around his neck and ridiculously huge diamond stud in his ear.

Nestled in downtown Chicago, The Jungle Room buzzed with flashy, well-lubricated businessmen with oversized wallets and scantily clad women with oversized racks. They circled each other like vultures, waiting to see who’d fall onto their backs first. It appeared the men were winning—a form of upscale prostitution.

Gina sat beside me at the bar, encouraging me to do the flirty eye thing with Shadow Man. “It’s your twenty-eighth birthday. Everyone should get laid on their birthday. What better present to give yourself?”

“I can give myself an orgasm.”

Gina laughed. “Not the same.”

I shrugged. “Depends on the guy. Besides, I don’t need birthday sex. I can hardly see him. He’s probably ugly.”

“It’s a one-night stand. Only thing that matters is the size of his—”

“Then pretend it’s your birthday!” I downed my cosmopolitan and spun the stool around. “Bathroom break. Keep an eye out for Dale.”

I followed the hallway to the restrooms. A line formed outside, but moved fast. Two women stepped in behind me, giggling like teenagers. I half-assed listened to them when someone grasped my elbow.

I immediately recognized the jewelry.

The man was 100 percent Italian Stallion, sporting a tight zipper shirt and black hair slicked back over his ears. He was around my age with a decent face—definitely not ugly like I’d thought—and he was tall and nicely built. Actually, he wasn’t bad looking at all. Maybe Gina was on to something with this birthday sex idea.

“Hey, sweetness. Saw you eyeing me back there.” He looked me up and down, licking his lips. “Now that I’m here, what are your other two wishes?”

Oh, jeez. Did he have to open his mouth? I hate men who start a conversation using cocky, sexist remarks. They come off as piggish jerks.

“I wasn’t eyeing you. I was…uh, looking for someone.”

“Well, you found me.”

“No, I mean someone else…the guy I’m with.”

Okay, so I lied. Dale hadn’t arrived yet, and even if he had, no one would believe he was my boyfriend. Ever. I didn’t have the right equipment Dale’s sexual preference gravitated toward. But this guy didn’t need to know that.

“The name’s Sergio. How about I buy you a drink, honey?” He rubbed a finger down my arm as I stared at his weird girly hands.

“No thanks,” I said, moving away.

“Aw, come on. I’ll wait for you, then we can go get that drink.”

“Thanks for the offer, but I can’t.”

He grinned as if I had somehow encouraged him and leaned against the wall. “No problem. I don’t mind waiting.”

What the fuck? Is he deaf?

“No, really, I can’t. My stomach’s upset and I… I’m going to be in here for quite a while.”

The two girls next to me made faces at each other, stepped out of line, and walked away. Oh, great. Did I just make them think I had diarrhea? Sadly enough, it didn’t deter Sergio.

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