Watch MeBy: Cynthia Eden
“Name your price.”
Chance Valentine slowly looked up and met the bright blue stare of the man seated across from him.
“You know I can pay it,” Will Hawthorne said, leaning forward. “So let’s cut through the bullshit and get this job done.”
Chance kept his face expressionless. “You have your own security team. I really don’t see why you need me anymore.” Will Hawthorne was one wealthy bastard—with bastard being the keyword. The man had enemies that stretched for miles, rivals that he’d stepped on—no stomped on—as he climbed to the top of the business world. The guy was also Chance’s ex-boss.
“She doesn’t trust anyone else on the team. She ditches the guards as fast as I put them on her.”
It got a little harder for Chance to keep that expressionless mask on his face.
“Gwen trusts you,” Will said. His blue eyes narrowed. “Use that trust. Get close to her. Stay close.”
The guy had no idea what he was asking. “Your daughter has plenty of—”
“My daughter barely talks to me right now, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know what the hell is going on in her life. Remember that asshole she hooked up with a few months back? The one with the damn shady past that still gives me nightmares?”
Beneath the desk, Chance’s hands clenched into fists. Yeah, he remembered the man. He also remembered how badly he’d wanted to rip the guy apart. Chance had seen what the fellow had done in the past—and he hadn’t been about to let Ethan Barclay hurt Gwen.
No one hurts Gwen.
Well, that had been Chance’s mantra. Then he’d been the one to break her heart.
“I’m worried about her. Gwen hasn’t been the same since that jerk Barclay.”
Chance cleared his throat. “Just because she had a bad break-up, that doesn’t mean the woman needs a twenty-four hour bodyguard.”
“What about the fact that someone is after her? Does that mean she needs protection?”
His body tensed. “You should have led with that shit, man.” And not come storming into my new office, telling me I had to take your job. Throwing your weight around and pulling your usual SOB routine.
Will nodded. “I think it’s Barclay. I think he’s the one who’s been tailing her. Some men can’t let go, know what I mean?”
Unfortunately, he did. “Do you have evidence that it’s him?”
Will’s lips thinned. “No, but someone broke into my daughter’s house. Someone has been calling her so much she’s had to change her phone number twice in the last two months. Like I said, she’s not talking much to me, but I am not about to let her be put at risk. I want you on the case. I want you close to my daughter.”
But that might not be what Gwen wants.
“With Barclay’s history…” Will sighed. “I won’t take risks. I can’t. Gwen has to be protected.” He inclined his head toward Chance. “You want this business of yours to succeed, right? You and your friends want to become the most sought after bodyguard agency in D.C.? I can do that for you, and you know it. I can talk to the right people, I can give you more clients than you can even handle.”
Yes, he knew the guy could. Just as he knew the wrong word from Will would have folks running away from his business.
Chance had been in security for years. Once upon a time, he’d even protected the president. He knew exactly how to stay close, how to shadow a client while looking for every possible threat. Hell, he’d been Will’s chief of security for three years. Like that had been an easy job.
Protecting the president had been a cakewalk compared to life at Hawthorne Industries.
But Chance had finally branched out on his own. He and two of his closest friends had put all of their savings into this business. In D.C., the personal protection business was booming, and he was all set to tap into that boom.
The right words from Will…oh, yes, he’d be tapping in to that boom, all right.
And what about Gwen?
Her image flashed into his mind, an image that came to him far too often. Beautiful Gwen. “I didn’t think you trusted me with your daughter.” His words came out rougher than Chance had intended.
“I don’t. I’ve seen the way you look at her.” A muscle flexed in Will’s jaw. “But I know…I know you’d keep her safe. She won’t let anyone else stay close. Gwen’s too smart. Like I said, she ditches every guard I put on her.”
“And you think she won’t ditch me?”
“I know you won’t let her,” Will said with certainty.
No, he wouldn’t. Chance rubbed his jaw and felt the scrape of his five o-clock shadow. “I’ll investigate,” he finally said. “I’ll see if anyone is after her or if you’re just being a paranoid bastard.” He didn’t pull his punches with Will. Others did. Chance didn’t.