Title: Strike Fear
Series: Hawk Elite Security #2
Author: Beth Rhodes
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: February 13, 2017
Head of the personal safety division for Hawk Elite Security, Tan is serious about teaching his clients how to stay safe. But, with a file two inches thick confirming Elizabeth Whitney as a world champion athlete, he's prepared to take on his newest assignment as the vacation he hasn't had in over five years. A little instruction, a couple hockey games on the side, and he'll be on his way to the next spoiled rich kid.
Elizabeth takes one look at Tancredo Byrnes and it doesn't matter that she can perform a triple lutz-toe loop blindfolded; clumsy becomes her middle name. Though trusting people outside her family has never been her strong suit, she finds herself drawn to the easy-going man who is supposed to make her into a superwoman. But she's been burned by those fickle feelings of attraction before and isn't about to let them ruin her life again.
As their training intensifies, the threats to Elizabeth darken, and Tan realizes that what should have been a cake walk is a fight between life and death.
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He liked women, he really did. He dated occasionally, never taking anything deeper than the surface. There had always been too much on his plate with a job in the military. And sending his paycheck home to Mom and his sister had kept him from stumbling into anything long term.
And his focus had been best utilized at work, anyway. Until now. Until he’d taken the position at the gym and begun to manage personal security, anyway. During an operation, he was part of a team. Sometimes, his new position left him alone—for long stretches of time. He found he had way more time with himself than he wanted. To think. To analyze. To regret.
He shoved aside those thoughts as she made her way out of the locker room in her black leggings—holy long legs—that had swirls of glittering rhinestones and sequins all over them. The tank top matched—black but, thankfully, free of all the crap that would scratch the hell out of him. Her shoes were tiny little white canvas boppers, also covered in shiny shit.
At least she’d had the sense to remove the expensive stuff. Her ears were bare as were her neck and wrist. “Where do we start?” she asked.
“You do realize you might get sweaty, right?”
“I’m ready when you are.”
They stretched first. And he let himself be impressed by her flexibility, the obvious attention she paid to her muscles. “Do you still skate?”
“No,” she answered quickly, not expounding, as she lowered her head once more to her knees and let her hands dangle over her feet.
The job had been handed to him less than twenty-four hours ago, with little to go on except for the father’s concern and a little background. Apparently, she wasn’t going to talk either…yet. But he’d learned, sometimes it takes a while to get the client talking.
Loose now, and obviously comfortable in her own skin, Elizabeth kept her muscles warm by moving. She shook out her arms and paced. Fluid grace.
“Let’s start with a stalker scenario.”
She snorted a laugh. “That’s easy. I’m going to cross the street…and probably run.”
“Maybe this guy can run, too.” Tan twisted at the waist, stretching the muscles of his lower back. “He gets you from behind. Come here.”
She rolled her eyes but did as requested.
“You’re running and he gets your arm.” Grabbing her arm, Tan pulled her against him, wrapping his arms around her chest and giving her a lift off the ground. Wow, she was light.
Immediately, she threw her head back, catching the side of his jaw. He grunted, the surprise making him drop her. She slammed her foot onto his instep, elbowed his gut, which left him breathless, then turned and kneed him in the groin.
He moaned and slowly lowered himself to the floor so he could lie in the fetal position. Holy crap. Taken down by a sparkling princess. Thank God he was the only one around today.
She leaned over, and her hair brushed against his cheek. “How about you tell my dad I passed, and we’ll call it even.”
Not in a million years, he promised as she picked up her bag and walked out the door.
Liz jerked out of a sound sleep, half off the king-size bed, her leg and arm hanging from the side, opposite of Tan.
She’d heard something.
Or had she been dreaming? No, no, no. She didn’t want to start dreaming again merely because she was in a relationship with Tancredo. No, the dreams should be going away. She was safe with him. And she loved him. God, she loved him.
And he wanted to legally take on his sister as a ward.
That made her heart melt like crazy.
But it also made her nervous as hell. “Holy buckets,” she whispered as the pounding of her heart slowed. Not a dream, only the change, nerves. Then she heard the sound again, and remembered Malcolm and Craig were still there.
Because there was still a killer on the loose.
And she’d been targeted once.
All the victims were connected to a sexual assault charge in one way or another.
She flopped back onto the pillow and reached a hand for Tan. She laughed because she couldn’t. He was too far away. She scooted over to his side and leaned into him.
“Goal:” she whispered, “Make love to you so hard, we actually fall off this ridiculously large bed…and you thought I was the spoiled rich girl. Who has the king-size mattress, hmm?” She nipped at his ear. “I’ve got a single at my apartment—had. Well, shit. I had a twin.”
She sighed, and he levered himself up and laid on her, sucking her breast into his mouth. She groaned as arousal grew inside her. She hoped her grin said it all, and then Tan surprised her, rolling her once and then twice—they still didn’t fall off the bed—he kneed her legs apart and thrust into her. “Oh, yes,” she said, but he covered her mouth with his hand, gently, in a way to say quiet. “Right,” she giggled as he stroked her wet flesh, sending lightning bolts of electricity straight to her. She grabbed his rear, trying to make him go faster, but he maintained the easy-going pace until her breath shortened. “Tan,” she breathed.
“Yeah, baby. That’s it. Come on.”
She exploded around him, her muscles gripping him, her body arching with the ecstasy. Her brain short-circuited. She couldn’t move, didn’t want to.
She snorted a laugh. “Best thirteen seconds of my life—so far.”
He lay next to her and took her hand. “We’ve got company.”
“I think the noise is what woke me.”
He leaned over her, braced himself with a hand on her leg and squeezed her muscle, too. She really loved how he kept touching her. It was unexpected. But she wondered if he was making up for lost time…
Or if he was anticipating lost time ahead.
His proposition probably wouldn’t matter right away anyway. She had a ton of work to do to get ready for the Expo. And she was going to be scrambling for anything to make her booth look professional. She didn’t have a sign. She didn’t have material to make a sign anymore. She had nothing.
A year ago, she would have been paralyzed. Hell, a month ago.
Now, it made her want it even more.
“Think, think, thinking,” he observed as he snaked his arms into a long-sleeve tee.
She breathed a chuckle. “Yeah. I have three days now to put something together for the Expo.”
“You’re still going to do it?”
She frowned at him. “Of course. Why not?”
“Uh, well, because you lost your entire shop in a fire. There’s a serial killer targeting sexual assault victims.”
“See? Here’s the thing… Specifically, women who accused a man of raping them, and as similar as that seems to what I went through, I never reported a sex crime.” She got up, pulling his sheet around her, and grabbed her bag from next to the door. “Gabriel went away for crimes with intent to kill.”
Tan was staring at her now, looking a little hollowed out, a little pale—if that was even possible, but it was, because he did.
“What?” She frowned. “Are you okay?”
“I have to go.”
“Sure. I was going to finish those pieces this morning before I started figuring out what to do about my presentation…” she paused. “You really don’t look okay.”
He ignored her and opened the door.
“Hey,” she exclaimed, tightening her hold on the sheet.
“Malcolm!” he yelled down the hall, and she almost tripped in her escape to get by him and reach the bathroom before Malcolm showed up in the doorway. Didn’t work. Tan steadied her with a hand on her arm, and then there was Malcolm.
She sighed. She’d said something to set him off.
“I have to check into something. Don’t let her out of your sight—for anything.”
“No. You don’t understand.”
Heat rose on her neck—exposed neck—and her hands were shaking. “Tan,” she reprimanded gently. “Let me go.”
He looked at his hand on her arm, as if not realizing he still had her, and then up into her eyes. “Don’t leave his side. Not for your dad or brothers—anyone. You trust Malcolm right now. No one else.”
“Okay,” she said, hearing the exasperated quality but not really being able to subside it. “I get it.” She stepped back, trying to get away again—amused, though, not offended.
Malcolm was the perfect gentlemen, of course, keeping his eyes averted.
Either that or he was scared of Tan, who did outweigh him a bit.
“I won’t go anywhere without Malcolm and Craig. I promise.”
“I would prefer you not going anywhere, period, until I get back.”
But he was scaring her now. “What is it, Tan?”
He blew out a breath and walked over to her. “A hunch I have to check on.”
“Will you let them take me to my dad’s? I can work there for a few hours, while you—” she waved her hands around. “Do your thing. Plus, I keep a few of my old costumes there, and maybe I can use those to make a sign…or something,” she said. “It’s probably worth a shot. Maggie likes to sew, anyway. She might have some materials I can use.”
After a pause, which made her squirm, he finally answered, “Okay.”
“I want regular updates…” He walked out of the room with Malcolm, and his voice faded. She bit her lip nervously as she closed the door again. Then she hurried to the bathroom and took the fastest shower ever, because she had the funny feeling he might leave without saying goodbye. He was that occupied by whatever was bothering him, whatever was running through his head.
In a way, she wished he would tell her what he was thinking.
But she’d learned he needed time to process things, and he would tell her as soon as he had it all figured it out in his head.
ALSO AVAILABLE IN THE HAWK ELITE SECURITY SERIES
#1 Strike Back
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Beth Rhodes is a wife, mother, friend, and lover. She lives with her Army husband and their six children at the base of the mountains in Colorado. She loves the cold, coffee, camping, and sunshine.
Her stories are full of life, family, and love. You can find her reading just about any genre of romance, but her favorites are fast-paced suspense, where life is on the line and love is the only saving grace. She wants a book that makes her heart pound and her pulse race.
Beth is a member of Romance Writers of America, Pikes Peak Writers, Colorado Romance Writers, and International Thriller Writers. She is signed with Entangled Publishing and Boroughs Publishing Group.
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