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Guarding Gwen, page 1

 

Guarding Gwen
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Guarding Gwen


  By Cynthia Eden

  This book is a work of fiction. Any similarities to real people, places, or events are not intentional and are purely the result of coincidence. The characters, places, and events in this story are fictional.

  Copyright ©2019 by Cindy Roussos

  All rights reserved. This publication may not be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form without the express written consent of the author except for the use of small quotes or excerpts used in book reviews.

  Copy-editing by: JRT Editing

  (build 4)

  Table of Contents

  Title Page

  Copyright Page

  Guarding Gwen

  Prologue

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Chapter Eighteen

  Chapter Nineteen

  Chapter Twenty

  Author’s Note

  About The Author

  Prologue

  “You keep your damn hands off her, you understand?” Simon Forrest snarled as rage pumped through him. “Gwen belongs to me.”

  The prick that he’d just decked slowly pushed up from the sandy beach as the waves pounded into the shore. “You sure about that?” Xavier Gray asked, swiping his hand over his bloody lower lip. “Because Gwen was sure as hell acting like she wanted me.”

  Gwen tried to lunge past Simon and attack the guy. “You are such a lying—”

  Simon caught her, wrapped his arms around her stomach, and pulled her so that her back was against his chest. Putting his mouth near her ear, he whispered, “I got him, baby. I got him.”

  She didn’t relax against him—Simon knew she was far too pissed for that—but he could feel a bit of the tension leave her.

  Carefully, he moved Gwen to the side. He didn’t want her getting caught in the crossfire. The fight had begun in the nearby club when that piece of crap had thought he had some kind of right to put his hands on Gwen. On Gwen’s ass. Oh, hell, no.

  The fight had spilled outside, and so had the crowd. At least two dozen folks formed a tight circle around them. Simon recognized some of the faces—they’d recently graduated with Gwen—but the others were just strangers in the normally quiet beach town on the Florida Coast.

  “The lady isn’t interested in you,” Simon said, his voice ringing out loud and clear. “So don’t put your hands on her again.”

  Xavier laughed and spat blood on the sand. “I think she likes it when my hands are on her. She’s been playing this game with me for years, acting like a tease who wants me, and I’m gonna give her exactly what she—”

  Simon was done. Just fucking done. He didn’t waste more energy on talking, he simply attacked. He drove straight at the bastard and hit him hard and deep, exactly like he’d been trained on the football field. Simon tackled that jerk and trapped Xavier beneath him. He pulled back so that he could drive his fist at the guy. The fool barely fought back because Xavier was too used to pushing around those weaker than him. Too used to his rich daddy’s money protecting him from the world.

  Not this time.

  Simon was pretty sure Xavier’s nose broke beneath his fist.

  “Simon.” Gwen’s voice. Soft. Her fingers curled around his arm, and his head whipped toward her.

  “Stop, Simon. Let’s get out of here.”

  For her, anything. He immediately backed away from the guy. The crowd was whispering. He barely spared those people a glance. Gwen. She was all that mattered.

  His fingers locked with hers, and he walked away from the fool bleeding in the sand. The crowd retreated so that Simon could cut a clear path through them.

  “You’ll be fucking sorry, Simon Forrest!” Xavier’s bellow followed him. “I’ll make you pay!”

  Simon didn’t stop. What the hell could the guy do to him? Simon was shipping out tomorrow. The Navy was waiting.

  His hold tightened on Gwen’s hand. I ship out, and I leave her.

  He took her to his motorcycle. He climbed on, and then Gwen slipped onto the seat behind him. Her body curled around his even as her arms wrapped around his stomach. The engine growled to life, and the ride shot them out into the night. A million stars glittered overhead, and Gwen—his Gwen held tight to him. He drove and drove until Simon got them to their place. A private stretch of beach that only the locals visited. He braked, killed the engine, and shoved down his kickstand.

  They left their helmets behind, and he walked with Gwen down to the water’s edge. They hadn’t spoken during the whole ride. That was the way it was for him and Gwen. Sometimes, they didn’t need to talk at all. They could just be together, and he knew that she understood him.

  What the hell am I going to do without her?

  Simon turned toward Gwen. The wind blew her long, dark hair over her shoulders. She stared up at him. Beautiful Gwen. His Gwen.

  But…only his for a little while longer.

  “Do you have to go?” Her voice was low, sad.

  Yeah, he had to go. He’d already done all the paperwork. Set the gears in motion. He was nineteen years old, and he had to get a plan for his future. He had nothing to offer Gwen, and she—hell, she had a scholarship waiting. In a few weeks, summer would be over. She’d be going to FSU.

  And he’d…

  I’ve always been good at fighting. Always been strong. The one thing my father used to say about me…It was time he put his skills to use. Time to make a difference. Time to become someone better.

  He used to not care about things like that. About being better. But that had been before Gwen.

  His hand lifted and slid over her cheek. There was something important she needed to understand. No matter what else happened. “If you ever need me, baby, I’m there. I’d lie for you, steal, hell, I’d even kill for you.”

  Gwen gave a little gasp and stepped back. “I don’t want that. I’d never want you to do anything like that.” She lifted his right hand. “Your knuckles are all messed up.”

  Because he’d pounded the jerk—

  “I didn’t need you to fight him. What if he calls the cops on you? What if—”

  “He took the first swing in that club. Everyone there saw it. I doubt even his daddy’s money could buy him out of that one.”

  Her fingers traced over his knuckles, and then she lifted his hand to her mouth. Her lips pressed gently to the skin.

  Gwen. How was he going to walk away from her? It was going to gut him to leave her.

  “You don’t have to go. You can stay with me. We can make things work. We can—”

  I have nothing. He couldn’t tell her that. A guy had to have some pride. A girl like Gwen deserved so much more. And, maybe, maybe one day, he’d have more to give her.

  “We can’t, Gwen.” His voice was flat. Too hard.

  She flinched and dropped his hand.

  “You have school. I have the Navy.”

  Her head tipped forward. “I just want you.”

  God…He reached for her. Pulled her against him. Tipped back her head. He couldn’t imagine ever not wanting Gwen. But it was the wrong time. So wrong. And he couldn’t keep her when he had nothing.

  His lips lowered to hers. He kissed her. Held her.

  Loved her.

  ***

  They were still on the beach when the sun rose. He hadn’t been able to let her
go, not on their last night together.

  But…

  The air seemed oddly cold for summer. And the waves weren’t crashing quite as hard any longer. Gwen sat beside him, fitting him so perfectly, and when she looked at him with her gorgeous, golden eyes…

  I have to let her go. “It was a mistake,” he blurted.

  Gwen frowned at him. Then hope lit her eyes. “You’re not leaving? You’re staying—”

  God, baby, no. “This was a mistake, Gwen.” This…them being locked so tight to each other. The emotions that seemed to swamp him sometimes. “We’re too young.” She’d just graduated that June. “I don’t have anything to offer you.” And it wasn’t about not loving her enough, she had to get that, didn’t she? She had to see—

  Gwen stood and brushed the sand off her hands. “The only thing I wanted was you.”

  That wasn’t enough.

  Her lower lip trembled as she stared at him. “But I don’t get that, do I?”

  His heart iced as he scrambled to his feet. “Gwen—”

  “Take me home, Simon.”

  Her home…but no one was there. Her grandmother had died that spring, and her parents hadn’t been part of her life. Her dad had been gone for as long as she could remember and her mom—Gwen never talked about her mom. Another reason why she was going to FSU. So she could start fresh.

  She turned away and began walking up the beach. He stared after her. He wanted to tell her that he’d be back. But…

  But as he watched her walk away, he couldn’t manage to say a word. And the ice in his heart seemed to spread through his whole body.

  Chapter One

  “I want Simon Forrest.” Gwenevere Soloman sat in the leather chair, her long legs crossed in front of her, casually swinging one high-heeled foot. The shoes were Louboutin, black on top and fiery red on the bottom. They screamed money and style, just like the rest of her outfit. The pencil skirt and the designer blouse had been custom-made for her. Gwenevere—or really, just plain Gwen—knew that she looked wealthy and in control. That had been the plan, after all. To appear to have her shit together.

  When in truth…she was freaking the hell out. It was a good thing that she made her living as an actress. Otherwise…

  The man across the desk cleared his throat. His dark eyes studied her and his handsome face showed his curiosity. “Ah, Ms. Soloman, clients don’t generally get to request specific security personnel.”

  “Gwen, please. We’ll be working together, so let’s not be formal.” Her heart was racing in her chest, but her voice was perfectly calm. “I came to Wilde Securities because I was told you were the best in the business. That you handled high profile clients with the utmost discretion.” Don’t show fear. Don’t.

  Eric Wilde—the man who was Wilde Securities—inclined his dark head toward her. “Yes, we are the best.”

  No modesty there.

  “But you just came in from the street and you told me that you wanted my Vice President—not some regular agent—to personally handle your case.” He gave her an apologetic smile. “That’s not how things work here.”

  Okay. Not good. She slowly uncrossed her legs and leaned forward. She put one well-manicured hand on his desk. “I will pay whatever is necessary, but I need Simon Forrest.”

  Eric’s eyes narrowed as he seemed to assess her. “Why him, in particular?”

  Because they had a past. Not a good one. Actually, a rather messy and extremely painful past, but Simon Forrest was the most lethal bastard that she knew. And in this particular situation, lethal was needed.

  “Money doesn’t matter to me.” The words were so easy. She knew he’d have no clue that, once, money had mattered. Mattered so very much. Once, she’d had nothing. She’d been so desperate that she would have done anything to survive.

  But that girl…she was dead. Long gone. Gwen gave Eric another broad smile. “I need the services of Wilde Securities, and do you really want me to leave this office and spread word to my friends that you refused me?” That sounded way arrogant. Unfortunate, but necessary. And it was a total bluff. She had no intention of telling anyone that she’d ever visited this high-rise office in Atlanta.

  Eric weighed her words. He studied her with his head cocked. Could he tell she was bluffing? Oh, jeez, no, he couldn’t. Could not. Or at least, he’d better not be able to tell. She’d won a freaking Academy Award last year. She could surely fool one security guy. Right?

  Eric pushed a button on the phone that perched on his desk. “Dennis…”

  Dennis was his assistant. The guy had tripped when he’d first seen Gwen. Cutely charming.

  “Get Simon in here, would you?” Eric continued, his voice brisk. “I have a case that I need him to consult on.”

  Consult? No, Simon needed to take her case. And she wasn’t leaving this office until she got him.

  Eric leaned back in his chair. Crossed his arms over his chest. “Why.” Not a question. More of a demanding growl.

  She blinked. Looked innocent. “He was recommended to me.”

  Eric shook his head. “Try again.”

  “Excuse me?” She thought her frown of confusion was a nice touch.

  “No one recommended Simon. He’s a dangerous asshole that most people avoid. His people skills are…less than desirable. He growls more than he talks, and the guy lives for adrenaline.”

  Okay, yes, that was the Simon she’d known and loved.

  No, no, I didn’t love him. A teenage crush. That crush had ended long ago. And he’d sure as hell walked away from her fast enough. Walked, run. Whatever. Then he’d stayed away. Long after the point when he should have come back.

  But that didn’t matter. She’d moved on. So had he. And she would have stayed out of his life permanently, except…

  Well…

  Her past had come back to bite her in the ass.

  “Ms. Soloman?” Eric prompted.

  “I told you, call me Gwen. Everyone does.” She dropped her smile. It wasn’t working on the guy, anyway. What was he? Made of stone? Ice? “I know that Simon is dangerous. I heard that fact about him.” She rolled one shoulder in a careless shrug. “I happen to need a little danger in my life.”

  If anything, his dark gaze became even more intense. “Tell me what’s happening.”

  She glanced over her shoulder. The door was still shut. “Why not just wait for Simon? Then I only have to share the story once.” And she could better keep track of her lies.

  Eric exhaled on a long sigh. “You know that I can tear into your life and know every secret that you possess within about five or ten minutes? You understand that, don’t you?”

  Her head whipped back toward him. No, she most certainly had not understood that.

  Eric lifted a brow. “It’s kind of what I do. And a woman like you…a woman whose life is lived in the tabloids, well, it’s not like you have a lot of deep, dark secrets anyway.”

  You’d be surprised. She’d managed to bury a whole lot of secrets. Too bad some of them had decided to crawl out of their graves.

  The door opened behind her. She heard the faint squeak of the hinges.

  “Where’s the fire?” A deep, dark voice demanded. “I was working on a case with Julia, but Dennis said I had to drop everything and get my ass up here, pronto.”

  Chill bumps seemed to cover her. Gwen licked her lips and hoped like hell that her expression had remained contained. Eric’s eyes were on her. He’d been studying her so carefully. He’d been—

  “You know him,” Eric said flatly.

  Okay, Eric was good. Very good at watching people. She’d have to remember that trait for the future. But then, she’d come to Wilde Securities because the firm was supposed to be the best. Score one for Eric.

  Simon’s footsteps padded closer. She hadn’t looked at him yet. She should. Just get it over with. He’d probably changed in the years. Maybe he wouldn’t be as handsome any longer. Maybe she could just look at him and not feel a single, solitary thing—


  “Is this a new client—” Simon’s words ended. Just stopped as he finally got a look at her. As he stared down at her, Gwen saw the absolute shock fill his green gaze. He shook his head, as if he couldn’t quite believe what—no, who—he was seeing. Then… “Gwen?” He reached for her. Bent toward her and pulled her out of the chair. His hands wrapped around her shoulders, his grip tight, a little rough, and he stared at her as if—

  “Uh, right. Figured as much,” Eric noted dryly. “You two do know each other.”

  Simon’s head had been lowering toward hers. His gaze had been on her mouth. Oh, no way. The guy hadn’t thought he was going to kiss her? Not happening. She wanted his protection, his particular skill set…not his mouth.

  Gwen raised her hands and pushed against his chest. His very muscled chest. Someone had been working out, hard. Even though he wore a fancy suit, she could feel the strength and heat of his body far too easily. “Let go.”

  He did, instantly. Simon stepped back and shook his head. “This isn’t a dream?”

  What?

  “Because I swear, I’ve had dreams like this.” But then his gaze cut toward a watchful Eric. “Only your ass is never in my dreams.”

  Eric’s lips twisted. “Good to know.”

  Gwen backed away from Simon. “I’m not a dream. I’m a client.” And, dammit, the years had been kind to Simon. More than kind. He was even more muscled than he’d been. Not a boy, but a man now. Wide shoulders. Powerful chest. Dark hair that was a little long. A square, chiseled jaw, perfect cheekbones, and a line of stubble on him that was just downright sexy.

  He wore a suit, but looked rough and ready. Fierce.

  Some things didn’t change…

  “A client?” Simon rolled back his shoulders. He shook his head. His gaze slid over her, and she could have sworn she felt the scorching heat of that look like a burn on her skin. “Gwenevere.”

  “Gwen,” she gritted out.

  His gaze snapped back up to her face.

  She lifted her chin. “You’re in the protection business, aren’t you?” She waved between him and a too-watchful Eric. “Well, I need protection. The best money can buy.”

 
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