USA Today Bestselling Author
It’s been over two years since Melanie’s life was forever changed. Over two years since she met Holden on a Panama Canal cruise that went awry. Over two years since she had the best sex of her life for ten amazing days before returning to the real world and tucking that vacation adventure away forever.
After walking away from Melanie, Holden worked several long-term assignments for the Holt Agency, keeping himself busy, keeping his mind off the woman who had seemed so perfect for him in every way. Their lives weren’t compatible. She was a professor at Georgetown. He thrived on dangerous rescues and protection details.
Time has not changed how either of them feels for each other, nor has it changed their circumstances. But Melanie’s apartment has been ransacked and another professor has been found dead. Someone is after her. She might not like it, but she needs Holden’s protection.
The two of them can try to keep their feelings for each other at bay, but for how long?
In the prologue of this book we get a glimpse of the very hot last days of a Panama Canal Cruise where Melanie and Holden first met and got together. Their life circumstances didn’t allow this relationship to continue after that, although they keep in touch.
It’s over two years later and Melanie a professor of Chinese Culture and Language is finishing up a semester of teaching. She’s hoping to publish a paper at the end of the break and has a lunch meeting with a visiting colleague who has some reference data for her. That meeting will change everything for Mel.
With her townhouse ransacked, Mel calls Grant and Callie. Grant works for the Holt Agency and she knows he’ll get to the bottom of things. She’ll be staying with them for a while or so she thought.
When the professor she met turns up dead, they realize Mel is in far more danger than they thought and send her to a remote safehouse. One no one knows about except those who work with the Holt Agency. What no one mentions is that it’s Holden’s home.
Holden has been on assignment in Europe and when he arrives home he’s exhausted and just wants to drop into bed and sleep. Boy is he in for a surprise.
This is a favorite scene.
After tipping the driver heftily for bringing him home in the middle of the night, he lugged his suitcase to the side entrance, unlocked the door, and stepped inside.
He didn’t need lights. He knew how to disarm and rearm the alarm without seeing a thing. He’d done so many times. Lights would just cause him to be more awake, and awake wasn’t the goal. The goal was to aim straight for his bed, drop his clothes, slide under the covers, and sleep like the dead.
Leaving his suitcase and computer bag in the kitchen, he pulled his shirt over his head as he made his way up the stairs and into the bedroom. It wasn’t until he was halfway to the bed that he froze.
Goosebumps rose up his arms. Several thoughts went through his head all at once.
He could see the indentation of a person in his bed. Someone was sleeping there. This didn’t fill him with panic. The guys he worked with often used his cabin. Frank and Nancy Holt had several sets of keys and all the codes. Anytime someone needed downtime away from the homebase in Indiana, they could be sent here to relax.
Grant had keys. He and Callie came here too. There was no way they had come this week though because Grant had known Holden had been wrapping up his mission and would be home soon. Plus, there was only one body in the bed. Not two.
The next thought, one that overlapped the first, was that the person in the bed was a woman. The form was too small and slight to be one of his co-workers.
Thought number three, perhaps a quarter of a second behind the first two was why anyone had sent a woman to the cabin. That wasn’t the norm. Especially not alone.
Thought number four, lapping over the top of number three, why hadn’t anyone told him? A simple phone call… And then, fuck. When was the last time he’d checked his messages? Not in over a day. Not since he’d wrapped up his job and headed for the airport. Not even in the car on the way here. He wasn’t even sure where his cell phone was. Buried in his computer bag, probably.
Fuck fuck fuck. Holden was fucking tired. He needed sleep. He was in no mood to entertain. He wanted to be right where this woman was, sleeping in his own fucking bed.
He could slip back out of the room and take over one of the guest rooms, but whoever was in his bed would die of fright when she found him in the morning. Or hell, if she was military or in some way involved with the Holt Agency, she might shoot him first and ask questions after. To her, he would be an intruder.
Nope. He was going to have to wake her now. Confront her now. Figure out who she was and why she was in his bed. Afterward, he could negotiate with her and convince her to move to a guest room so he could have his own damn bed. He hadn’t slept on his fucking expensive mattress for months. He fully intended to tonight.
Taking a deep breath as he faced the inevitable confrontation, he dropped his shirt on the floor and ran a hand over his hair.
That’s when another thought slipped into his brain unbidden and made him stop breathing. Or moving. He wasn’t sure he was even standing any longer. His legs were jelly.
Surely he was imagining things. No way in hell was the woman in his bed Melanie Hurn. The fact that he would never forget her scent in a million years just meant his brain was playing tricks on him.
He took another slow deep breath. Fuck. Closed his eyes. Breathed again. Fuck. It wasn’t logical. He hadn’t seen her in over a year. Hadn’t touched her in over two years. Hadn’t held her in all that time. But damn, her scent permeated the room.
He would know it anywhere. His room smelled like sex. That scent he liked to bury his nose in after he had her. After he made her come. He’d dreamed about it a thousand times since he’d last experienced it.
What were the chances? Surely his mind was playing tricks on him. Why would Melanie be in his cabin, in his bed? He’d like to go back about an hour, find his phone, check his messages.
He was breathing heavily now, and he needed to turn the lights on, confront this woman, and prove to himself she was not Melanie. It could be anyone. It wasn’t her.
His eyes were adjusted enough to glance around as he stepped closer. If the person in the bed was armed, she was likely to kill him. He was about to scare her to death.
She was curled on her side, facing away from him. She also had Melanie’s curls. Jesus. It really was likely her.
He turned toward the bathroom, deciding to flip on the lights in there instead of blinding both of them with the sudden overhead lights in the bedroom.
With one last deep breath, he flipped the switch, his gaze on the woman. “Melanie?” he called out. His gut told him he was right. Every sense in his body told him he was right. Melanie was in his bed, between his sheets.
Suddenly, the sleeping form bolted upright, a scream coming from her lips as she twisted toward him, eyes wide with fear.
Holden stopped breathing. She was even more gorgeous than he remembered. Her hair was a wild mass of curls. Her chest was heaving. But more importantly, she was naked. The sheets had fallen to her waist, and she was in too much shock to realize he was staring at her breasts.
His cock was hard in a second. She was here. Either that or he’d fallen asleep on the way up the mountain and was having the best dream of his life behind the driver.
Seconds passed in limbo before Melanie found enough brain cells to grab the sheet and pull it up over her chest. “Holden?” Her voice squeaked. “What are you doing here?”
“I was about to ask you the same question,” he responded.
“I, uh, it’s a long story. You go first. I thought you were in Europe or something.”
“I was. My assignment ended.” He took a step closer to her, half afraid she wasn’t real. He didn’t want to wake up if this was a dream. He wanted to hold on to it. Keep talking to her. He hadn’t heard her voice in a long time. He wanted to absorb every syllable.
God, he was a mess.
“Okay. Why did you come here?”
He frowned. “It’s my house. I live here.” Did she not know that?
Her eyes widened again. “Tell me you’re kidding.”
“Why would I lie about that? This is my cabin.”
She held the sheet tight above her chest with one hand and rubbed her face with the other. “I’m going to kill Grant and Callie.”
He nodded. If this was a setup… If Grant and Callie had sent her here under false pretenses to force the two of them to face each other… Well, it was an ingenious idea, but he would still kill them himself. Mel would never get the chance.
“Surely they left you messages. Don’t you check your phone?” she accused.
He winced. “I didn’t. No. I’ve been exhausted and traveling for over twenty-four hours. My phone is buried somewhere in my bag.” He changed subjects. “Did they set us up?”
She sighed. “No idea. It’s more complicated than that.”
He stepped even closer. He shouldn’t. He should leave the room and let her get dressed so they could talk with clothes on, but he couldn’t stop himself. He was drawn to her like a magnet.
Becca Jameson. Protected (Kindle Locations 420-478).
It’s not until later the next day that they accidentally discover the reason Mel’s place was trashed. Apparently, the professor gave her a jump drive that was supposed to contain links to aid her research, instead a bunch of encrypted data starts streaming across her screen.
With the professor now dead the danger to Mel has escalated and it’s a race to find out not only what the data is but also who had it a who wants it.
Intriguing, emotional, scary, romantic and lots of sizzle between these two.
5 Contented Purrs for Becca!
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Becca Jameson is a USA Today bestselling author of over 100 books. She is most well-known for her Wolf Masters Series, her Fight Club series, and her Club Zodiac series. She currently lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband and Goldendoodle. Two grown kids pop in every once in a while too! She is loving this journey and has dabbled in a variety of genres, including paranormal, sports romance, military, and BDSM.A total night owl, Becca writes late at night, sequestering herself in her office with a glass of red wine and a bar of dark chocolate, her fingers flying across the keyboard as her characters weave their own stories.
During the day–which never starts before ten in the morning!–she can be found jogging, running errands, or reading in her favorite hammock chair!
…where Alphas dominate…