Excerpts

What the Lady Wants

Chapter 1

 

“So, how much longer do you have to put up with your shadow?”

Too long.

Staring morosely into her coffee, Cynthia Fordham sighed. “At least until my parents get home from their trip.” Which was another three long weeks away.

She hadn’t wanted or accepted a bodyguard in years, but Thea had grudgingly agreed that for now, considering the circumstances, she’d have to have one with her whenever she left the family estate. Her mother wouldn’t have agreed to get on that plane otherwise, and there was no way in the world Thea would have ruined her father’s extravagant plans to give her mom the mental and physical vacation that she so desperately needed.

Not even if it meant giving up some of her own hard-won independence.

Truthfully, for the most part, she didn’t really mind her shadows. She liked most of them, and they knew her well enough to make the situation, if not enjoyable, then at least bearable. No, it was just Simon Poole who felt like a splinter under her fingernail, always making his presence known in painful little ways. Now, if Doyle had still been one of her bodyguards instead of having become their boss, she wouldn’t mind the close attention one little bit.

Not that she’d ever managed to get Doyle to give her the kind of attention she actually craved from him. Not yet, anyway.

“Are they still in Kenya?” Amelia Westlake asked, her light green eyes dancing with avid interest. “I am so going to bug your mom for pictures when they get back.”

“They’re on safari until the end of the week,” Thea confirmed, “and you know she’ll keep you captive for a whole day once she starts showing you her ten-thousand shot photo album.” She chewed her lower lip. “Maybe if I call my dad when they get back to civilization and ask really nicely, he’ll agree to let Doyle give me a little more breathing room.”

Or not. Frank Fordham tended to be a little crazy when it came to protecting “his girls,” as he called her and her mother. It was one of the reasons Thea had insisted on going out of state to attend college. Sometimes her father’s brand of love could be more than a little overwhelming.

“He wouldn’t have wanted you protected if he didn’t feel there was a need,” Lillian Beaumont pointed out, tearing a bite off of the monstrous double chocolate chip muffin she’d been steadily consuming with her mocha latte. Thea had no idea where all the calories went, but as much as her petite friend ate, she never seemed to gain an ounce. Which was so totally unfair, since just looking at the thing had probably slapped a good half-inch onto her own waistline.

“It’s not that big a deal,” she muttered and then sighed in resignation when Lillian gave her “the look.” “Okay, okay. I know, every threat is bad,” Thea conceded. “I just really hate knowing there’s someone watching me all the time.” She knew they’d understand, since they’d both made the same complaints over the years. Fighting the urge to steal a piece of the muffin, which looked so much better than her plain biscotti and smelled like chocolate heaven, she groaned pathetically. “I could put up with it for now if only he just wasn’t so…Simon.”

Three sets of accusing eyes peered over at the man sitting with his back to the wall of the coffeehouse, his body angled so he could view both the patrons coming in the door and the dozen or so already clustered around the various tables and booths sipping their cappuccinos and lattes. Like someone is going to jump me in the middle of Pot and Kettle, Thea thought with a disgusted mental snort.

But that was Simon. He was all about the job. A little too much so, if her opinion counted for anything, which it seemed it didn’t since he’d been assigned to her again today despite her previous objections.

“He does look a little…intense,” Amelia conceded.

“There’s a definite Clint Eastwood complex going on there.” Seated across the round bistro-style table from her two friends, Lillian flicked a finger at the spiky bangs edging her narrowed brown eyes as she scowled at Simon. With her elfin features and pixie haircut, she looked like an annoyed fairy. “Doesn’t he realize how ridiculous he looks?”

“I was thinking more Men in Black myself,” Amelia disagreed. “I mean, come on, the suit, the sunglasses? Definite Will Smith wannabe.” The grin on her face slid away when it seemed like Simon’s gaze zeroed in on her. “I hate it when he does that,” she muttered into her mug, blushing violently. “It’s creepy.”

Thea agreed wholeheartedly. It wasn’t that Simon was a bad guy, really. He was just a little too into the whole bodyguard persona. If only he could at least try to blend in, maybe having him around wouldn’t be such a royal pain in her butt. Even Daryl Raintree didn’t stand out as badly, and that was saying a lot, considering Daryl was a six-foot-four, half-blooded Sioux. Daryl wore normal clothes. And smiled. And he wasn’t a jerk.

“Why don’t you just ask Doyle not to put him on your detail?” Lillian asked.

As always, thoughts of her father’s head of security sent mixed signals of frustration and warmth through Thea. She forced herself to ignore both. “I did.”

“And?”

Thea sighed again, giving her stirrer a brisk turn around her cup in agitation. “He feels I have an unreasonable dislike of Simon, and basically told me that if I couldn’t give him a legitimate reason to remove him, then I should just pull up my big-girl panties and deal with it.”

Amelia’s eyes widened. “Wow.”

“Ouch,” Lillian agreed.

Thea didn’t offer her own feelings on the matter. The memory of that conversation still chafed. All she’d done was make what was, to her, a simple and reasonable request. She didn’t need movie-star level protection. She normally didn’t require any, despite her father’s wealth, especially not here in Boulder, where she’d grown up and had always felt extremely comfortable and safe. So safe, in fact, that all three of them had managed to wriggle free of that constrictive net once they’d turned eighteen and gotten a say in the matter. Now they only had to deal with security for special occasions and if there was some kind of credible threat.

Like now.

And, as Doyle had reminded her, since a large chunk of his team was currently half a world away with her parents, there were only so many people he could spare to accompany her when she decided to “flit around town” with her friends. That had actually hurt. Thea knew she could be accused of doing a lot of things, but “flitting” wasn’t one of them. She just couldn’t stand to stay locked in at the family estate 24/7. It would drive her insane.

Especially since Doyle was there.

Shoving away the shaft of pain that unfair accusation had jabbed into her, she determined to put both Doyle and Simon out of her mind and enjoy her time out with her friends. “So, how goes the wedding plans?”

Amelia had surprised them both by getting engaged the previous month. She and Charles Davenport had only been dating for a few months and mostly long distance at that. Since she’d spent the first sixteen years of her life being trotted out for display at one political function or another by her senator father and hating every minute of it, her engagement to an up-and-coming young politician had come as something of a shock to her friends.

But since Amelia seemed to genuinely love her fiancé, and so far it seemed that he returned the sentiment, they were trying hard to be supportive of her decision. Although privately, Thea thought Charles was a bit of an arrogant ass.

“Oh, things are going fine.” Amelia toyed with her mug, not meeting anyone’s eyes. “Mother and Mrs. Davenport assure me that they have everything well in hand.”

Thea glanced at Lillian, who met her gaze with an answering frown of concern.

“Mellie, honey,” Lillian said gently, “you’re not letting them take over everything, are you?”

The way Amelia shifted in her seat was answer enough. Her quiet nature tended to allow people to walk all over her. Her mother certainly did. The woman was a human pit bull. With the addition of Mrs. Davenport, the two political grand dames were likely to steamroll right over Amelia’s—and probably Charles’s—wishes without giving either the bride or groom a second thought.

Poor Amelia would end up lucky to get an invitation to her own wedding.

“Oh, Mellie,” Lillian started. Amelia shook her head, her cheeks reddening again, something the fair skin she’d inherited along with her pale blond hair tended to do with great frequency.

“No, it’s okay, really,” she said quickly. “They know how to plan an event like this. I don’t.” She smiled weakly. “I wouldn’t want to embarrass Charles.”

Judging from the strained condition of Amelia’s smile, Thea was fairly sure she was repeating a sentiment she’d been hearing a lot lately. She put a comforting hand on her friend’s arm. “Honey, you couldn’t embarrass Charles if you tried.”

The strained quality softened, but the smile remained more wan than happy.

“He’s at the most important stage of his career, when everyone’s eyes are going to be on him. Everything has to be perfect for him.” Amelia refocused on Thea and asked determinedly, “So, how goes the job hunt?”

Leave it to Amelia to find the one topic Thea was excited enough about to allow the blatant use of her own tactics against her. She beamed with delight. “I think I might have actually gotten it.”

“Which one is this?” Lillian asked.

“Timberlake Interiors,” Thea answered with no little amount of pride. It was one of the most prestigious firms in the state and, best of all, based right there in Boulder. “I interviewed with Janice Timberlake herself last Friday, and I think I made a good impression. She seemed to like my portfolio, and we got along really well.” That was as important to Thea as salary or benefits. More, actually. She just couldn’t see herself working for someone she didn’t like.

“What about…the other thing?”

“The other thing” was what had kept Thea from taking the other half dozen jobs she’d already interviewed for in the months since returning home from college. Never mind that her grades had been top notch. Forget the letters of recommendation from both her teachers and the firm she had interned with during her senior year. All that had mattered to her prospective employers had been the name Fordham on her résumé. As in Fordham Electronics. As in Money, with a very capital M.

“Did this one have any sons that ‘just dropped by’ while you were there?” Lillian asked with a barely concealed grin. She ducked the wadded up napkin Thea tossed at her.

“No.” Thankfully, that had only happened once, which had been more than enough. She’d barely escaped without having to be rude to the woman who was so certain that Thea and her thirty-year-old, twice-divorced son made the “absolutely perfect” couple.

Not.

By the time she’d gotten to the Timberlake interview, Thea had known to address all of the important issues in the first five minutes. With a determination that would have done even Mrs. Westlake proud, she had assured and reassured Janice Timberlake that as far as she was concerned, the name Fordham didn’t make her any better—or worse—than anyone else. If she was hired, her job would in no way be influenced by her family’s wealth or social standing.

“I think I managed to put that behind me this time,” Thea said, mentally crossing her fingers. She really wanted this job. She didn’t need it, of course, but she did need to have something to do with her life that didn’t include living off her trust fund or taking a position in her father’s company. She loved her father dearly, but she wanted her own life. A nine-to-five job in an office just wasn’t for her.

Interior design intrigued her on a visceral level. She loved playing with color and texture, and matching the feel of a room to the person who would be using it. Madison Helmsworth, the owner of the firm she’d interned with, had told her she had a natural eye. She’d also only half-jokingly predicted that Thea would have her own design firm within five years.

While starting her own business appealed to her, especially after the difficulties she was currently having finding the right fit in someone else’s company, Thea still felt she needed some practical experience first to establish her credentials. That was why she was so excited about the possibility of getting the Timberlake job. If she did, she knew it would be because she was considered an asset rather than a trophy.

Most of all, though, getting the Timberlake job meant she would stay in Boulder, although she wouldn’t admit to anyone that it wasn’t staying close to her family that fueled that desire. She’d spent the four years away at college trying to squash her feelings for Brennan Doyle. He’d dealt her eighteen-year-old ego a huge blow before she’d left for California, and she had been determined to get over him once and for all. Unrequited love was hell on a person’s self-confidence.

But after less than a week back home, she’d known that nothing had changed. She still loved the big jerk as much as ever.

Now she just had to decide what she was going to do about it.

“When will you know?” Amelia asked.

“She’s supposed to get back to me by the end of the week.” Which meant every day until then would be spent on pins and needles waiting for the phone to ring.

As they discussed which shops they wanted to browse through that afternoon, they cleared the small table, dumped their trash, and headed for the restroom. Before Thea could touch the door, however, a hand appeared to block her. She tensed, knowing who it belonged to and what he wanted, and bit back a hiss of displeasure.

She waved at the door with a flourish. “Go ahead. Be my guest.” Scowling at Simon’s back wasn’t satisfying enough, so she added sweetly, “Could you make sure there’s paper in all the stalls while you’re in there, too?”

Lillian stifled a snort, but Thea was feeling far from amused. There was being a good bodyguard, and then there was being an anal-retentive jerk that couldn’t see the line between necessary and excessive. Yes, both Francine and Kirsten would have gone into the restroom with her if they’d been on duty, but they would have made it feel natural. Low-key. Unlike Simon, who managed to push all of her mad buttons without even trying.

Ignoring him when he came out and gave the all-clear, Thea pushed through the door, followed by Lillian and Amelia. Her friends tactfully continued their discussion of their shopping plans as they touched up their makeup, but Thea found her joy in the day had been soured. Her feelings must have shown because Lillian gave her a hip bump and grinned into the mirror at her.

“We can always do a fire drill and lose the loser.”

A fire drill. Thea grinned. They hadn’t pulled that stunt since their senior prom, when they hadn’t wanted their respective shadows tagging along to the after-prom party and ruining their fun. All three of them had bolted from their limo at a red light, dates in tow. By the time the light had changed and the cars with their security details had broken free of traffic, they’d been in a friend’s borrowed SUV and on their way to the party. Calls home had assured everyone they hadn’t been kidnapped, but there had still been hell to pay come morning.

Thea sighed. As good as the idea sounded in the abstract, in reality she knew ditching her bodyguard would be the height of stupidity. Even though she felt the threats that had been made against her family were very unlikely to come to anything, she’d made a promise and she’d keep it.

That didn’t mean she wouldn’t keep trying to get Doyle to see reason about him axing Simon from her detail, though. She was doing her best to be reasonable and adult in her war of wills with him over that, but he was making it tough. The fact that she got distracted by that panty-wetting belly tingle every time she was alone with him didn’t help, either.

Not that she was willing to admit that little factoid to anyone, not even her best friends. As far as they were concerned, her unrequited teenage longings for Brennan Doyle had been discarded along with her penchant for M&M binges and midnight skinny-dipping.

If only Doyle were as easy to give up as the chocolate.

Forcing her thoughts away from the too-sexy-for-her-peace-of-mind Doyle, Thea said, “As much as the idea appeals, I think I’ll just have to put up with him for today.” Her sense of humor reemerged as she added, “Besides, I kind of like the idea of dragging him through every dress shop in town. It should bore him stupid.”

Lillian had just opened her mouth to comment when a sharply raised voice outside the restroom door caught everyone’s attention. All three stared at the door as the words “You have no right!” rang clearly through the wood. Some woman was not a happy camper, and Thea knew exactly who was to blame. She swore under her breath.

“You’ll both testify that it was justifiable homicide, right?” she muttered through clenched teeth as she reached for the door. “Because I’m going to kill him.” Steeling herself, she yanked it open.

At first, all she saw was a lot of back, since Simon was standing directly in front of the opening doing his Secret Service impersonation. Then he shifted to the side to let her out—after she poked a hard finger into his ribs—and Thea saw the very angry woman who had evidently been denied entry to the restroom while her oh-so-special personage was using it.

Janice Timberlake.

Of course.

Thea smiled a weak apology at the woman, but somehow she knew she wasn’t going to be getting that happy phone call she’d been expecting. In fact, she might as well forget about applying to any other design firms in the state of Colorado once Mrs. Timberlake got through with her.

Oh yes, her humiliation was quite complete.

And she knew just who she was going to share it with.

***

There had been many times in Brennan Doyle’s thirty-four years that his sharply tuned instincts had saved his ass.

They’d made him ditch his cigarette down the toilet just seconds ahead of the principal’s arrival back in his St. Cyril’s High School days. They’d let him slip unnoticed from Mary Jane Kelly’s bedroom window right before her mother did a surprise post-midnight bed check. They’d even kept him and his men alive during more than one mission in the Middle East and other hot-spots around the globe.

Several of his Marine Recon buddies had laughingly referred to it as “Doyle’s Spidey Sense,” but to a man they had respected it. If Doyle said jump, they didn’t ask why, they just asked which way.

Doyle’s instincts had never let him down yet. And those instincts were telling him that something was about to screw up his day. Big time.

Not five minutes after the troublesome feeling began, the door to his office in the security bungalow slammed open, and that something stalked in and stood in front of his desk, practically spitting fire at him.

“You have to do something about him.” The words sounded as though they were being yanked through clenched teeth, which, on closer inspection, Doyle saw they were. Everything about the rigid line of Cynthia Fordham’s body screamed restrained fury. Barely restrained. Her fists were clenched so tightly at her sides that her fingers had gone white, and her entire body practically quivered like a live wire.

There was only one thing he could think of that would drive her to such a state. What the hell had Poole done now?

Adopting his professional tone and expression, Doyle said calmly, “Why don’t you—”

“I don’t want to sit down, Doyle,” Thea interrupted, anticipating his opening salvo. There wasn’t much room in the small office, packed as it was by a desk, credenza, filing cabinets, and two chairs, but she began to pace in tight, quick steps in the only floor space available, right in front of his desk. It was as though she had to expend the tension in her body or explode from it.

“I don’t want to calm down. I don’t want to discuss this rationally. And I don’t want to hear how he’s a professional and I should just let him do his job.” Thea stopped and leaned on the front of the desk with both hands, bringing her eye-to-eye with Doyle. “I just want him gone.”

With great difficulty, Doyle ignored the way her silk blouse gaped as she leaned over, revealing creamy skin that he definitely shouldn’t have been noticing. Harder was not inhaling the intoxicatingly sweet scent of vanilla and honey that seemed to surround her like a delicious cloud.

“We’ve had this discussion before,” he said, willfully maintaining eye contact. “Several times, in fact. I’m not going to remove one of my people from a detail just because you don’t get along with him. He’s there as your bodyguard, not as your friend.”

“What he is is a pain in my—”

“Thea,” Doyle warned.

Drawing herself upright, for which Doyle was eternally grateful, Thea glared down at him with narrowed eyes. “He’s embarrassed me for the last time, Doyle. He’s supposed to be a nice, invisible shadow. Everyone else is a shadow. Francine is a shadow. Daryl is a shadow. But Simon…”

“Not a shadow?” Doyle ventured, half-amused despite himself.

“Worse. He’s…he’s an attention-seeking Secret Service wannabe. Or a Men in Black wannabe. We haven’t quite decided which.”

Doyle didn’t need to ask who the “we” was. The Royal Court, as the trio of friends had been dubbed for their combined wealth and family power as much as for the way people always seemed to gravitate toward them and try to ingratiate themselves into their inner circle.

Their security code names had even been derived from the teasing appellation: Lillian Beaumont was the Queen or Queen Bee, the one who led them on most of their outrageous stunts; Amelia Westlake was the Princess, the one born with a silver spoon in her mouth and a dragon of a mother to guard the castle gates; and Thea was the Lady, the calming influence and voice of reason.

Usually.

Swiping a hand through the air as if to wipe away what she’d been saying as unimportant, Thea continued her tirade. “Whatever he is, today he went too far, Doyle. He humiliated me, and he cost me the job I wanted. A job I worked damn hard to get, by the way. One I would have been really good at, too, if anyone would give me half a chance to prove it.” She drew an unsteady breath. “So I’m not asking anymore, Doyle. I’m telling you. Get Simon off my detail. Today. Right now. This second.”

Doyle frowned slightly. “What do you mean he cost you a job?”

“Mrs. Timberlake.” Her voice wobbled slightly, making his gut tighten at that obvious sign of true distress. “Timberlake Interiors. She was there, at the coffeehouse, and he wouldn’t let her in, and I could tell. I could just tell from the look on her face, she was thinking everything that I told her was a lie. That I really was this spoiled little rich bitch, and there’s no way on earth she’s going to hire me now, and she’ll tell everybody what happened and no one else will, either. And I’m going to end up decorating tacky little motel rooms in the middle of nowhere for the rest of my life, and it’s all his fault.” She ended in an almost-wail.

Since Thea wasn’t usually so verbally challenged, it took Doyle a few long seconds to make sense of her convoluted explanation. “He wouldn’t let her in to get coffee?”

“The bathroom, Doyle. He wouldn’t let her into the bathroom.” Thea rolled her eyes in disgust. “Don’t you get it? He stood there like…like…”

“Like a bodyguard?”

“Like a jerk,” Thea said, shooting him a scathing look, “and refused to let her in. To a public restroom, Doyle. What part of public didn’t he get?”

“It stopped being public the minute you went into it.”

“Damn it, Doyle!” Thea exploded. “How many times do we have to have the same argument? I don’t care how much money my father has. I’m not going to spend my life surrounded by bodyguards and handlers. I managed on my own for four years while I was away at college, and there’s no reason I can’t manage something as simple as going to the bathroom on my own now that I’m back home!”

There was, of course. A big, fat, dangerous reason, only not the one she thought. Not that Doyle was going to tell her that any more than he was going to tell her that she hadn’t been quite as alone during those four years away as she liked to think.

No. Right now his main concern was getting her calmed down before she did something impulsive or stupid. Thea was usually neither, but Doyle had sensed a change in her since she’d returned home two months earlier. There was a sense of dissatisfaction that hadn’t been there before, an edgy restlessness that made him wonder who or what had put it there and what Thea might end up doing because of it. To do his job, he needed her happy and contained.

And if happy wasn’t possible, well, then he’d settle for just contained.

“Your father’s takeover of Zephyr Industries made a lot of people very unhappy,” he reminded her, drawing on the cover story Frank Fordham had insisted upon when the need to increase the security surrounding Thea had first arisen. “There were more than a few ugly threats made.”

“By a bunch of overpaid executives who were pissed at losing their cushy jobs and golden parachutes, both of which were why the company was failing and ripe to be bought out by Dad in the first place,” Thea replied with dismissive disgust.

Doyle stifled a grin. She might say she didn’t want to work for her dad, but she was definitely her father’s daughter. “All the more reason for them to want a little revenge. You saw the letters.”

Thea sighed. “I know.”

“They threatened to hurt him and his family as payback.”

“I know.”

“Your mother only agreed to go ahead with the trip your father had planned for them if you promised to accept as much security as I deemed necessary to keep you safe from any possible danger those threats might present.”

“Damn it, Doyle, I know.

Invoking her mother’s concerns had been a little low, but Doyle refused to feel guilty. He needed Thea’s complete cooperation. If he had to push some buttons to get it, he would. Still, there was an undertone of sadness in Thea’s voice that reminded him that this wasn’t the first time she’d had to be concerned with being the target for any nut job with a grudge or a get-rich-quick scheme in his pocket.

Clearly, growing up an heiress wasn’t always the sunshine and roses people seemed to expect it to be. The threat of kidnapping had been a very real and present danger from the day her father had made his first million.

“I would have promised just about anything to keep her from cancelling their trip,” Thea said, reminding Doyle of how his boss’s wife had cornered him the morning they’d left for the airport to drag a personal promise from him to keep her daughter safe. She’d been given the cover story as well, which Frank Fordham had deemed the lesser evil when given the truth of the real threat to their only offspring.

Even if he hadn’t been following orders, Doyle would have also promised whatever it took to get Evie Fordham on that plane. The month-long trip had been planned as a way for her to finally de-stress after the health scare she had struggled through earlier in the year. The last thing she needed was to worry about the fact that Thea had acquired a stalker.

He might have had to lie about the reason, but he hadn’t had to lie about his promise. He had every intention of keeping Thea safe. He just wondered if either he or Frank would be once Evie found out that they’d withheld the truth from her as well as from Thea. Doyle knew exactly which side of her parentage Thea got her magnificent temper from.

“It won’t be forever,” he reminded her.

“It’ll only feel like it,” came the muttered reply. Thea sighed. “Fine. I’ve accepted that I have to have someone with me whenever I leave home. For now,” she added pointedly, seeming to need to reassert her stand on her right to be a Normal Person, an argument that had lasted her entire senior year of high school and ended with her winning the right to go away to college.

Her and a very clever security detail she’d thankfully never caught on to.

“For now,” Doyle agreed, saving that particular argument for another day.

“What about Simon?”

This time it was Doyle who sighed. “Do you think he really cost you that job?”

To her credit, Thea didn’t launch into another emotional tirade. Instead, she pushed her hand through her thick, chestnut hair and blew out a long breath. “I don’t know, Doyle. I really think he did. The look on her face…” She shook her head sadly.

Doyle felt his mouth dry up as the motion of Thea’s arm pushed her breasts snugly up against her silk blouse. Her nipples, hardened by the air conditioning, dimpled the soft material as they stood at pert attention. Roughly, Doyle jerked his attention away from the sight. He cleared his throat. Then cleared it again. “I’ll talk to Simon.”

“You’ve talked to him before,” Thea reminded him. She looked at him with pleading eyes. “Please, Doyle.”

Staring into those blue, blue eyes, Doyle knew he was already beaten. He’d never been able to say no to Thea when she looked at him like that. Well, except once. But that time, saying no had been a matter of honor, not to mention self-preservation, and had been the hardest damn thing he’d ever had to do.

“I’ll take him off your detail.” It was a reluctant acceptance of the inevitable. Simon and Thea had clashed from their first meeting. Some people enjoyed the whole “look at me, I’m important enough to rate a bodyguard” thing, but Thea wasn’t one of them. Simon just hadn’t seemed to be able to get that through his thick head, no matter how many times Doyle explained it to him. Well, maybe now he would.

Thea blinded him with a dazzling smile. “You’re the best, Doyle!”

Watching Thea’s exit was a trial, since her crisp linen slacks gave him a perfect view of her firm rear. Doyle slumped back in his chair. The best? Hell no, he was the worst. The worst kind of bastard, checking out his employer’s daughter’s assets. No matter that her breasts were full and looked to be just enough to overflow his hands, or that her ass was tight and round, or her long legs would wrap just nicely around his waist while he…

Viciously, Doyle snapped a leash on those thoughts and brought them to heel. This was Thea, for chrissake. Thea. He had no business thinking of her in terms of her assets, full, tight, or otherwise. He worked for her father. The man trusted him to keep her safe. Even from himself. Especially from himself. She was a child, a mere twenty-two to his thirty-four. He was old enough to be her…well, her older brother. And here he was, practically drooling over her lovely, young breasts.

God, he was disgusting.

Doyle picked up the phone and asked to have Simon sent to his office. After that, he called and left a message on Margo’s cell phone asking if she was free for dinner the following night. If he was paying attention to little Thea’s assets, that meant he wasn’t availing himself of Margo’s generous charms as often as he should.

Yes, that was it. He was a healthy man in his sexual prime, and he’d been depriving himself of his needs for too long. It made perfect sense.

But it still didn’t explain why his palms itched when he thought again of little Thea and her perky assets.