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Authors: Mina Carter

Close Protection

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Paranormal Protection Agency: Book V

Close Protection

Mina Carter

January 2013

 

Published by Summerhouse Publishing. Copyright, Mina Carter. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This book contains material protected under International and Federal Copyright Laws and Treaties. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this material is prohibited. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without express written permission from the author.

 

This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents and dialogues in this book are of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is completely coincidental.

 

Editor: Chris Stout | Cover Artist: Mina Carter

 

Chapter One

 

She couldn’t do this anymore. Couldn’t and fucking well wouldn’t.

“Get the hell out, or I’m calling the cops.”

Raising her chin, Ashlee Bishop faced down the group of men in her bar and levelled a cold stare at their leader. Her voice was cold and hard, far from her usual welcoming tone for the patrons of Bishop’s bar, but these weren’t customers. They were parasites, and they’d chased all her customers away. Every last frigging one. They weren’t taking her business as well.

The man in the front of the group tutted, a small smile on his face as he sauntered toward her. Her eyes narrowed but she held her ground. Showing weakness to Isaac Roth was like waving a red flag at a bull. Not. A. Good. Idea.

“Ashlee, Ashlee, Ashlee. I’m disappointed in you. Such language from a lady.”

She snorted, hiding her fear behind amusement. “Whoever told you I was a lady, Roth? I’m a bitch through and through, as you’re about to find out, if you don’t fuck off and take your little buddies with you.”

Roth paused a step away, tilting his head as he looked down at her. Down. Yeah, she was used to that too. She was midget sized, just grazing over five foot, which meant everyone was taller than she was. So if he thought the looming act was going to work, he was severely mistaken. With fucking bells on.

“Well, you’d better be a lady. Because if you’re not a lady…” His voice was low and pleasant, but she didn’t miss the threat hidden in the silky tones or the lust flaring in his eyes as he swept a look over her body. “Now be reasonable. I’ve offered you a good deal for our protection. I suggest you take it; you won’t get a better one.”

Be reasonable? With his bully boys in her bar and him practically dry humping her damn leg? Ashlee used anger to tramp down the panic rising within her. Trouble was, with anger came the inability to keep her mouth shut, or to engage common sense before she opened it.

“A better offer? So let me get this straight. You want money to protect me and my bar? From what exactly? This area was nice and quiet before you and your little gang of assholes came along. So you want me to pay you…for what? To fuck off?”

Roth’s brows snapped together, anger curling through the lust still dark in his eyes.

“Now you’re just being unpleasant, my dear.” He stepped forward, backing her up against the bar. He reached out and placed a hand either side of her shoulders on the polished wood, trapping her in the cage of his arms. “I told you…no payment. If you agree to my terms.”

He was so close that she could feel the heat of his body beating through her work shirt. The scent of his cologne wound around her. Woodsy with a citrus overtone and warmed by the heat of his skin, it would have been seductive if she were in the least attracted to him. Being threatened tended to turn her off a guy. Big time.

She arched an eyebrow. “So, to get this straight. I pay for protection or I fuck you for protection? There’s a word for that, and it ain’t a pretty one. Now, I’m not asking this time. I’m telling. Get out of my bar and take your little friends with you.”

Roth’s lips compressed at her crude language, but she didn’t care. All she cared about was getting him and his crew out of her bar. Then she could barricade herself in her office and give into the fear and panic racing through her body.

Roth sighed and lifted a hand to stroke his fingertips down her cheek. “Fight all you like, my lady. This
will
happen. I want you.”

She looked up to glare right into his face, refusing to be cowed. He wanted her in his bed so she was fairly sure he wouldn’t hurt her. Not seriously anyway. She suppressed a shiver. Despite the dark expression, he was good looking in a model sort of way. He dressed like he’d stepped right out of a GQ spread. Bastard.

Why couldn’t she attract a nice guy who looked like this? In her experience nice guys just
didn’t
look like this. Perhaps the level of attractiveness was directly proportional to the level of asshole-ishness?

“Didn’t you know? ‘I want’ doesn’t get jack-squat.”

He moved his head and the overhead lit a flash of colour at his hairline. Her brows creased. He had dark-brown hair but it was dyed, the roots starting to show through. Bright pink roots. Ashlee had gone through a phase of dying her own mousy hair bright red, with all the touch-ups and salon visits required, but usually the bright colour was the one growing out. She blinked, fear dancing down her spine in hobnail boots. There was only one race that had hair that colour.

Pixies.

Isaac Roth was a pixie. One of the most bloodthirsty and ruthless of the paranormal races.

The fear and panic in her system reached critical level, and she knew she was seconds away from losing it completely. Like completely freaking out, hysterical sort of losing it. Which would do her absolutely no good whatsoever. Just thinking it allowed her to channel her inner bitch and she shrugged, twisting her wrist.

A quick movement released the thin blade sheathed on her forearm under the shirt and dropped it into her hand. She tapped the razor-sharp edge against Roth’s pant leg, right over his femoral artery.

His eyes widened. Surprise and something else—admiration maybe?—shone in his gaze. Inclining his head, he stepped back out of range of her knife.

“Oh, I always get what I want, sweetheart, make no mistake about that. But it was crass of me to press my suit; I’ll give you some time to consider my offer.”

With that he turned, signalling to his men, and they left her alone in the bar. Alone and shaking like a damn leaf.

She stumbled a little as she made her way over to the front door, throwing the bolts and pulling the blinds down before Roth could change his mind and charge back in. One dose was more than enough in a day. She leaned against the wall by the door and closed her eyes. Hot tears prickled under her lids, trying to escape and leak down her cheeks. No way. Not happening. She wasn’t going to cry. She was a damn Bishop for heaven’s sake, and her dad hadn’t brought up a weak-willed daughter.

The thought of her dad put steel in her spine, and she straightened up. Roth wanted to play silly fuckers, did he? She could play games too. Now that she knew what sort of thing she was dealing with, she had a better idea of what measure she needed to take.

Marching through the bar, she headed for her office. Office? Ha! Closet might be a better description. Tucked away between the main bar and the kitchens, it was a tiny little affair barely big enough for a desk and the tattered couch tucked away under a small window. Set high in the wall, it looked onto the alleyway outside and was heavily barred and warded against magical attack. Her dad had been a forward thinker when it came to the paranormal races.

Striding into the room, she skirted the desk and dropped into the chair behind it to yank the top drawer open. It stuck, as usual, so she swore and put more muscle behind it. It gave with a clink, almost dumping the contents into her lap.

It was full of junk. Pens, paperclips, duct tape. You name it, it usually ended up in this drawer. Like it was some sort of magnet for random crap. Pursing her lips she rifled through the contents. Where was it? She’d seen it just the other day…

Her fingers closed on the edge of a card and she dragged it out with a cry of triumph. Battered and dog-eared, it had obviously been lurking in the drawer for a while. There was even a coffee-ring stain across it, proof that it had spent some time on the surface of the desk as well. Her lips moved as she read the words on the front.

Paranormal Protection Agency.

Just a name and a number. That was it. No catchy tagline or web address. No customer recommendations. Nothing. Holding her breath and praying that it still worked, she reached out and dialled the number. To her surprise, it was answered within three rings.

“Good evening. This is the PPA. How can I help you?”

“Oh, thank God. I didn’t know if you’d still be open,” she gabbled in relief. “Help me, yes please. I have a pixie problem…”

* * *

How do I look Zane, darling? Good enough to eat?

Zane Holder’s jaw worked as he strode down the street, hands jammed in his pockets, the thick coat proof against the chill of the night. Winter had set in with a vengeance just before Christmas, and according to the weather reports it didn’t look like it planned to ease its grip much before March. Now he was slogging through it instead of the swanky soiree he was supposed to be at.

He didn’t care. He’d run buck-naked through the snow rather than go back to guarding Charlene ‘I’m so fucking irresistible’ Morris. The tall supermodel might have been the universal epitome of beauty, but her personality and attitude left a lot to be desired. She was, bluntly put, a spoilt brat. One who had cottoned onto Zane as soon as he’d been assigned to her close protection team, deciding that the best way to keep her youth and beauty—her two obsessions—was to get him to bite her and turn her into the same sort of creature he was.

Because Zane was a werewolf, an alpha werewolf. Admittedly one without a pack, but still, the power of the wolf ran through his veins unchecked, his feral nature evident for anyone who knew what they were looking for. Which made him a very good bodyguard but a bad babysitter, particularly for a spoilt human child barely out of her teens. Especially when said human child decided to try her fledging sensuality on him and, when it didn’t work, pouted and threw a tantrum. Told him that she owned him and he had to do exactly what she wanted. Up to and including biting and fucking her. Not necessarily in that order.

“Get me off this case,”
he’d warned his boss, Eloise.
“Because if she touches my cock one more time…”
Just the memory made him shudder.
“I won’t be responsible for my actions. I swear by the moon, I’ll rip her fucking throat out. I’m a bodyguard, not a fucking gigolo.”

“Whoa, calm down, big boy.”

As usual, Eloise’s soothing voice had brought him back to his senses. She had that effect on all the paranormals who worked for her. Given that she was human, Zane had never figured out how she did it. Mind you, a lot of the good behaviour could have been the fact that Eloise was all loved up with Cal and Gran, two bad-ass Gargoyles who could have given the Kray brothers a run for their money in the scary-as-fuck stakes.

“Just finish out the shift for me and I’ll put Stone and Claus on the case instead, okay?”

He’d grunted at that. Both men were top level operatives with the agency, like him. Stone was another wolf, whereas Claus was some kind of elf, a winter one or something. Zane didn’t know, didn’t much care. Both men were hard as fuck, and ones Zane would always pick to watch his back in any kind of situation. The fact that both were loved up to the eyeballs was only going to help them dealing with Spoilt Bitch Morris. He grinned. He’d really like to be a fly on the wall for that sulk.

“Sounds good. Thanks.”

“Don’t worry about it. Err, there is one thing though. I’ll need you to take on Stone’s job instead. Let me give you the details…”

She had, and Zane had duly noted them. Protection work. A gang of heavies headed up by a pixie of all things was hassling a bar owner downtown, and the woman had called the agency for help. Zane grinned and clenched his fists.

Being honest, he’d have taken on the job whatever it was, anything to get out of the Morris job, but the chance of pounding on some pixies made him a happy little clam indeed. Vicious bastards, the lot of them. They’d once gotten hold of Zane’s younger cousin just after the lad had gone through conversion. Damn near crippled him. The pack had avenged the attack of course, but Zane had been out of the country on military service, so he was still waiting for his bit of payback.

So instead of heading east across the city to get home, he was walking along snow covered streets downtown. Pulling his hand from his pocket, he looked again at the scrap of paper in it.

Bishop’s. 1001-1012 North Street.

He knew the place, used to pass it on the way home from work before he’d moved. It was known to be anti-paranormal, so he’d always avoided it. Until now.