Mine To Protect
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“YES! This is my second time reading this book and I loved it just as much as the first time. Victor and Zoe were perfect together.”
— B&N reviewer, ★★★★★

Chapter One

She’d escaped again. Sonofabitch. FBI Special Agent Victor Monroe was getting real tired of chasing his prey all around the country. When he put the woman in a safe house, she was supposed to stay…in the freaking safe house. She wasn’t supposed to vanish and give the agents assigned to guard her a heart attack.

But he’d learned that Zoe Peters rarely did what she was supposed to do. The woman made his life far too difficult. As if he didn’t already have enough trouble to deal with each day.

Sighing, Victor stared at the bus station. It was nearing midnight and this little town in Kansas…it was not where he wanted to be. A chill brushed over his cheeks. Winter was definitely in the air, and instead of being curled up somewhere, relaxing…

He’d been called after her. Again.

Only this time, things are changing. I don’t have the luxury of waiting any longer. I have to act…so I hope Zoe is ready.

He headed into the station, stomping his boots. He wasn’t wearing his customary suit. Instead, Victor was clad in old jeans, a sweatshirt, and a thick coat. As soon as he stepped inside that station, he was aware of the silence. Thick, total.

Most of the folks in there appeared to have fallen asleep as they waited for the next bus to arrive, a bus that he knew was scheduled to appear at 12:30 a.m. Zoe thought she’d be on that bus. She was wrong.

She isn’t getting away from me.

His gaze scanned the terminals. He was looking for Zoe’s dark hair. Sometimes, she wore wigs to disguise herself. As if a different hair color would make her blend into the background any place. Zoe was the kind of woman who always stood out from the crowd.

His attention shifted a bit to the right and to the long bench that waited in the corner. Someone was on that bench—a figure wearing a dark knit cap and one big, majorly oversized coat. That coat completely hid the person’s body.

His eyes narrowed as he strode toward that bench. And as he got closer—

A pair of unforgettable green eyes peeked up—met his for just an instant—then hurriedly glanced away.

Oh, Zoe, I have so got you.

He almost smiled.

She seemed to curl in on herself a bit more as he approached, and Victor wondered just what tactic she was going to try using this time.

He sat down on the bench next to her. Before he spoke, he looked around the station once more. He truly wasn’t in the mood for a scene—hopefully, she wouldn’t create one. There were about ten guys in that place, maybe five women. All of varying ages. He’d prefer to slip out without anyone getting too good of a glimpse of Zoe.

So I’ll need to distract folks. Give them something else to remember—something other than her face.

“Sweetheart…” Victor murmured as he turned to face her. “What are you doing?” He kept his voice as low as possible.

Zoe’s head tipped up a bit. The cap was pulled down so low that it nearly touched her dark brows. Her green eyes studied him with both anger and fear. Hell, he hated Zoe’s fear. Didn’t she get that by now? Her lips were wide, full, unpainted, and so sexy that he thought about them far too often.

That was Zoe, though. Walking temptation. Probably the reason she’d been such a hit as a Vegas showgirl. The woman’s face was a work of art. At least, as far as he was concerned, it was. Wide eyes, delicate nose, curving chin, high cheekbones—and those sexy lips.

She had long legs. Victor was sure those legs could high kick up a storm. And she was curved in all of the right places—places that were currently hidden by her massive coat.

“Do not sweetheart me,” she whispered back to him. “Leave me alone. Just walk out of here and let me go.”

Victor sighed again and stretched his right arm out along the bench, letting his fingers toy with the edge of her coat. “You know I can’t do that.”

She growled. The woman would probably freak if she knew he found that sound sexy.

“I am not staying locked up any longer!” Zoe said. “You can’t make me, Agent Monroe.

He heard the rumble of a bus, coming around the station for pickup. It looked as if he’d arrived just in the nick of time. Getting her out of the station would be much easier than hauling her sweet ass off a bus. And it would be less memorable, too.

“Easy or hard?” Victor asked her.

She shot to her feet.

Okay, he figured that meant she’d decided to go with the hard option. Fair enough.

She was trying to hurry toward the boarding area.

He rose, pushed back his shoulders and called out, “Sweetheart, I am so sorry.” Victor made sure that his voice was plenty loud and would reach everyone in that room.

Zoe froze.

“I was an ass. An absolute, unforgiveable ass.” He walked toward her. Her back was still to him—and to everyone else in the station. Good. “But I swear, baby, I will spend the rest of my life making things up to you.”

Aw, isn’t that sweet?” The gray-haired lady to his left said, grinning.

Victor gave her what he figured would look like a hopeful smile in return. Hopeful, but not cocky.

Then he focused on Zoe. A still unmoving Zoe. Oh, but I bet she is pissed right now. He’d have to deal with that rage soon enough. For the moment, his priority was getting them out of the bus station.

He put his hand on Zoe’s shoulder. Zoe’s rather puffy shoulder. That coat was almost hilariously huge on her. “Will you forgive me?” Once again, his voice carried easily.

But hers…

“Never,” Zoe whispered. Her voice only reached him.

“Oh, thank you, baby!” Victor cried out. He spun her around—fast—and lowered his head over hers. He made sure to cover her with as much of his body as possible and then—

Victor kissed her.

For the scene, of course. Because he had to make things look real for his audience.

And not, not because he’d wanted to taste Zoe. Definitely not because of that reason. He was a professional. An FBI agent who took his job seriously.

He was just doing a very, very thorough job, that was all.

Such bullshit.

Her mouth was so soft and silken beneath his, and her lips had parted—probably because the woman had been preparing to rip him a new one. His lips pressed to hers and his tongue slid inside her mouth.

This might be my only shot. I really hope she doesn’t slap me.

But…she didn’t.

She didn’t slap him. She didn’t jerk away. Maybe she was too shocked to attack.

So he kissed her deeper. Harder. He let go of the control that he had to always keep in place—so tiring, being in control all the time. Some days, he just wanted to let go.

He wanted to let his darker side out to play. It had been far too long since he’d gone wild.

Her tongue teased his and his cock jerked in eagerness. She wants me? She wants—

Her hands were around his shoulders. Her nails bit into his skin. He pulled her closer and mentally cursed that giant jacket because he wanted to feel her against him. Not that mound of cushion. A growl built in his throat. He was pretty sure his zipper was making a permanent indention on his growing dick.

Want more. Want her so badly.

But not in a bus station. Not with people gaping at them.

Time to end this scene.

Zoe must have thought the same thing because her nails weren’t sinking into him any longer. She was pushing against him.

In a fast swoop, he picked her up in his arms. He hoped that shit looked romantic to everyone who was watching. They’d remember a quarreling couple who made up—and hurried outside.

Not an FBI agent. Not an ex-showgirl on the run.

Reunited lovers.

She had stiffened in his arms, and he tightened his grip as he hauled ass for the door—with her held securely against him. He knew she wouldn’t want to make a scene, either, and he’d been counting on that fact.

Zoe knew she was being hunted—and not just by him. A low profile was key for her survival.

A few moments later, they were outside. His breath created a small cloud as the cold air hit him.

“Put. Me. Down.” Her voice was way colder than the chill in the air. But he didn’t put her down, not yet. Victor didn’t lower her until he was standing right beside the rented SUV that he’d used to track her. Once they were at the vehicle—and safely away from prying eyes—he lowered Zoe to her feet and he trapped her between his body and the SUV. The better to stop her from fleeing.

“Why in the hell did you kiss me?” Zoe demanded.

They were both in the shadows, but he could see that her cap had slipped back, letting thick locks of her dark hair tumble free. “It seemed like a good idea at the time,” he said.

Her index finger jabbed into his chest. “It was a crappy idea!”

“Really? Because I’m betting if they’re pressed, not one of the people in there would be able to describe your face. They weren’t focusing on what you looked like, they were focusing on what we were doing.”

And she’d sure tasted even better than he’d expected.

His expectations had been high…with her, they always were.

He eased back and opened the passenger side door for her.

She didn’t get in. “Why do you keep doing this to me?”

“Protecting you?” He shrugged. “It’s sort of my job.”

“No, it’s not.” But she got in the vehicle. A minor miracle. He slammed the door and hurried around to the driver’s side. He knew there was a chance she would cut and run from the SUV the minute his back was turned. Luckily, when he jumped in the ride, she was still in the passenger seat. A small miracle.

“Your job,” Zoe announced, her voice husky and sensual even when she was pissed, “is not to keep me your prisoner.”

“Of course not.” He started the ignition. “My job is to keep you alive, though we both know that.”

“Victor.”

He threw the vehicle into reverse. “Sweetheart, you’re a wanted woman. On the lists of more hitmen than I can count. Your dear old dad was one Grade A sadistic bastard before he got thrown in prison, and all of his enemies want to take out their fury on you.

She was silent. Never a good sign from Zoe.

“The FBI wants you alive. We’re here to protect you.” He turned the vehicle toward the exit.

“There is no we,” she huffed out the words. “There is you. You are sitting next to me. You’re the jerk who won’t let me just vanish. And that’s what I want—I can disappear and you can be done with me. I know I’ve been a pain in your ass—I’ve tried to be. It’s sort of been my whole life goal lately.”

Yes, she had been a pain. Always slipping away, never following the simple rules he had in place for her.

“Just let me go.” Now her voice had turned pleading. He hated it when she pleaded. Mostly because when she asked him for things, he had a real hard time saying no to her. “I heard…I heard you’d started spreading the word that I was dead, anyway.”

He had. Mostly because the heat had just kept coming toward her. So he’d figured if the right people thought she was dead, then she would be safer.

“They think I’m dead.” She leaned toward him. Her hand closed around his on the steering wheel. “If they think that, then I can be free.”

Only that story was recently blown to hell. “Yeah, about that…” Victor began.

But he didn’t get to say another word. Because the windshield on Zoe’s side of the vehicle suddenly seemed to explode.

“Zoe!” He bellowed her name even as he slammed his foot down harder on the gas pedal. She slumped near him, and he was fucking terrified that she’d been hit.

He looked at the broken glass and realized—

A bullet. Some sonofabitch had taken a shot at her.

Because despite what Zoe had just said, no one thought she was dead. That wonderful plan he’d had before? A rat at the FBI had turned that plan on its damn head. Now she was being hunted again and if that bullet had hit her…

I will fucking kill that shooter.

He yanked the wheel to the left, then took a hard right, sending them rushing away from the bus station. He wasn’t about to stop and give the shooter another chance to fire at her. They were getting the hell out of there.

Another bullet hit the back of the SUV.

Zoe was still slumped low, nearly in his lap.

“Zoe! Talk to me!” Was his heart beating? He wasn’t sure. Just breathing was hard. Zoe couldn’t be hurt. She couldn’t be dead. That shit was not happening. No, no, no. A black rage built in him, swallowing up everything in its path and—

“Stop yelling my name and just drive!” Her head turned, just a bit, in his lap. “Because I am staying low until we are away from that jerk! No way am I taking a bullet!”

A smile yanked his lips up and he did just what the lady had ordered—he drove hell fast and he got them the hell away from that jerk.

***

Had he hit her?

Slowly, Kyle Lawrence lowered his weapon. Frustration boiled in his gut. He was a first class sniper, trained by Uncle Sam back during the days when Kyle had been intent on being all he could be…

He didn’t normally miss a target. But…

Had she moved? Right before I fired?

Kyle feared she had. And since this particular gig was payable only when the woman’s dead body was delivered…hell, he wasn’t about to get his payday yet.

He put the rifle back in its case. The weapon had been equipped with a silencer and no one had been outside to witness that little shoot-out. As far as the rest of the world was concerned, the little attack had never even happened. It was so easy to hide most of his hits. Folks never realized the danger that was right around them.

He snapped his rifle case closed and hurried toward his truck. While the FBI agent had been inside, sweet-talking the woman into coming out with him, Kyle had put a tracker on the guy’s SUV. The agent wouldn’t get far.

And the woman?

If his bullet had missed her, well, she still wouldn’t live long. Kyle had a reputation to maintain. When he took a hit, he always, always got the job done.

Zoe Peters was a dead woman walking. The other fools who thought they’d get the bounty on her head? They needed to get in line behind him. She was his prize, and no one would stand in his way.

Not any other fool hit man.

And sure as hell not some FBI agent.

Kyle cranked his truck, floored the baby, and got on the trail of his precious prize.

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