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The Heart You Break (Wilde Ways Book 4), page 1

 

The Heart You Break (Wilde Ways Book 4)
 


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The Heart You Break (Wilde Ways Book 4)


  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 2)

  Table of Contents

  Title Page

  Copyright Page

  The Heart You Break

  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

  Epilogue

  Author’s Note

  About The Author

  Prologue

  “Does the name Bran Copper mean anything to you?”

  Julia Slate stopped swinging her high heeled foot. She’d come into her boss’s office at Wilde Securities just moments before. She’d been eager to find out what her new assignment would be. And, as usual, Eric Wilde didn’t waste time. The door had barely shut behind his assistant, and he’d dropped his too telling question.

  “I know the name.” She tilted her head. “Though I can’t say I’m a fan.”

  Eric’s lips twitched. Eric Wilde was a good boss. Smart, no-nonsense, and he paid her a wicked high salary. She definitely couldn’t complain.

  Not about him, anyway, but the job that he seemed to be hinting at…

  Oh, yes, I can complain.

  “Bran Copper.” She exhaled on a long sigh. “Rock star. Notorious bad boy.” She’d never been impressed by bad boys. They tended to wreck everything in their paths and never look back. A wave of her hand. “According to the media, he’s a guy who has never met a party he didn’t like. He lives life fast, and he lives life hard.” A pause. “I remember all that attention he got when it came out a while back that he liked to do base jumping. Talk about an adrenaline junkie.”

  If possible, Eric’s eyes gleamed even more. “And you’re not?”

  Oh, he had not just gone there. Her lips pressed together, and she didn’t reply, mostly because, dang it, Eric was right.

  She was a former firefighter turned security agent. She lived for field work. The more dangerous the job, the more she liked it.

  Eric continued, all bland and easy, “It’s good that you’re already familiar with him.”

  No. No way. She straightened in the lush chair. “I am not taking a case for Bran Copper. I will not work for him. Are you kidding me?”

  “Technically, you wouldn’t be working for him.”

  Right, because she worked for Eric, and Eric was—

  “Bran didn’t approach the agency. His manager did. Bran has no idea what’s happening.”

  Her brow wrinkled. Now she was confused as all hell. A feeling she didn’t particularly enjoy. Confusion, surprises—nope, not for her.

  “Bran’s manager is currently waiting in the conference room. I didn’t want you to meet him until I was sure you were the right agent for the job.”

  She lifted a brow.

  “I’ve tried to get you to move up to management.” Now his tone was low. “I want to make you a VP, and you know it.”

  Yes, she did, but she wasn’t ready to give up the field work. Not yet. Sometimes, the rush she got from the jobs—that rush was the only thing that made her feel alive.

  Eric cleared his throat. “Bran has a stalker. A very dangerous one, according to his manager. The stalker began by sending letters to Bran months ago. Letters, then pictures. Pictures of Bran inside his Beverly Hills mansion. Then there were break-ins while he was on tour. Someone got into his dressing room—twice—and slashed all of the furniture.”

  “Escalation,” she murmured.

  Eric nodded. “There was an accident last week. Someone disabled his brakes, and Bran crashed his motorcycle. He was lucky, very lucky, because he managed to walk away with just some bruises and cuts. But next time, Bran might not be so fortunate.” Eric’s hand rubbed along his hard jaw. “Bran’s manager is convinced the stalker was behind the accident. He wants twenty-four, seven protection for his star client, but Bran—for whatever reason—isn’t on board with the plan.”

  Rock stars and logic. Everyone knew they didn’t always mix.

  “The manager—a fellow named Hathway—doesn’t want to leave Bran unprotected. Bran just finished his tour, and he’s supposed to be heading to the Blue Ridge Mountains for a break. According to Hathway, Bran goes up there to watch the leaves change and to write new songs. He usually goes up there and stays for several weeks.”

  Alone in the mountains? She shifted a bit in her chair. “Sounds like the perfect time for a stalker to attack.” Get your prey isolated and vulnerable.

  “That’s what I’m worried about. Since Bran is refusing to hire a bodyguard, Hathway came up with an, um, new plan.”

  Her fingers tapped against the edge of her chair.

  “You wouldn’t be called a bodyguard,” Eric informed her smoothly. “You’d be Bran’s new assistant. Hathway said he can convince the guy to let you move in to his mountain home.”

  She shook her head. “Wait, wait, I don’t get—”

  “Undercover bodyguard.” A shrug of Eric’s powerful shoulders. Then he rose and walked around the desk. He stopped near her, propping one hip against the wood. “That’s how you’d go in. Bran doesn’t want a bodyguard, so he won’t know that he’s getting one.”

  “I’m going to lie. That’s what you’re saying?”

  “I’m saying…would you lie to protect someone?”

  Yes, she would, but there were so many things wrong with this situation.

  “Ahem.” Now Eric looked exceedingly uncomfortable. His cheeks had flushed, and the man never blushed. “Hathway requested someone who looked, um, delicate. Vulnerable.”

  She rolled her eyes. “I have never been delicate a day in my life.” The very idea was insulting.

  “You’re five-foot-three, and you look like a freaking ballerina.”

  Now she narrowed her eyes on him. “Appearances can be deceiving.”

  “You’re beautiful and you’re smart, and you’re probably the most dangerous woman I’ve ever met.”

  That was so sweet. She almost blew him a kiss. “Flattery will not convince me to take the job.”

  “How about this…Hathway offered to double our original fee? Since you’d be undercover, he didn’t want you to balk at the job.”

  “I am balking.” Balking a lot but… “A stalker, huh?”

  Eric caught his smug smile before it could stretch too far. “You never could turn away from someone in need.”

  A flaw she had. One that would probably bite her in the butt one day soon. “Let me look at the file.”

  Eric turned and reached for the file. He gave it to her and waited.

  Her fingers were rock steady as she flipped through the papers. She saw the photos of the smashed motorcycle. Jesus. It looked like the thing was an accordion. And he
’d walked away from that? Eric had been right. Bran was a very lucky man. She glanced at another photo.

  Bran Copper.

  Julia swallowed. The guy was sexy. No doubt. He had dark stubble covering his hard jaw, and his gorgeous, unforgettable golden eyes stared back at her. Those eyes had seduced millions of women. Pair those incredible eyes with his low, raspy voice, and you had pure temptation. Bran’s voice made you want to strip off your clothes and—

  No. She had not ever wanted to do that. Playboys weren’t her type. The man could sing, he had a good face, and a muscled body that he obviously spent a lot of time building in the gym. But he was not her type. Bran Copper was trouble. Trouble in bright, blinking lights.

  Luckily, though, she excelled at handling trouble.

  She stared at Bran’s photo a moment longer. Gazed into his eyes. Then she nodded. “I want to meet his manager.”

  “You’re taking the case?”

  She’d never refused a case before, and she wasn’t about to start now. “You knew I would.”

  “Yes, well, I kind of had a bet going that you would…”

  Now she glanced up and glowered.

  Eric winced. “I’ll split the winnings with you?”

  “You’d better.”

  ***

  Julia opened the door to the conference room and strode inside.

  The man at the table immediately jumped to his feet. He was tall, thin, and wearing a stylishly cut, black suit. His blond hair had been brushed back from his high forehead. He was handsome, in one of those perfect, rich guy ways. He reached for her hand, and she wasn’t the least bit surprised to find that his fingers were baby soft.

  “You’re Julia Slate?” His gaze swept over her with eagerness.

  “That’s me.” She released his hand.

  His smile flashed, revealing perfect, white teeth. “Bran is going to love you.”

  She really doubted that.

  Chapter One

  “Who in the hell are you?”

  Julia backed up a step, a deliberate move to show that the fierce guy in front of her was intimidating. Well, he wasn’t really intimidating. Few things intimidated her after the life she’d led. But she figured she should act the part of the frightened new assistant.

  After all, she had a role to play. “Julia Slate?” And, yes, she made her name sound like a question as she answered. Her voice came out breathy and nervous, and she even bit her lower lip for a little extra performance power. The nervous bite should show him that she wasn’t a threat.

  Bran Copper filled the cabin’s doorway. His shoulders were big—much bigger than she’d realized. He wore a black t-shirt that stretched across the powerful muscles of his chest, and faded jeans hugged his lean hips and long legs. His hair was a little longer than it had been in the pictures she’d viewed at Wilde Securities, and the stubble on his jaw was thicker. His golden eyes were the same, though. Deep, burning, and…

  Currently locked on her mouth.

  Oh, right. I’m still biting my lip. She let the lip go before the moment turned way awkward. “Julia Slate,” she said again, lifting her chin and forcing her hand out toward him. “I think Mr. Hathway told you about me? I’m your new assistant.”

  Now his golden gaze ripped from her mouth to fly toward her extended hand. “There’s no Mr. in front of Hathway. The jackass is just Hathway, and I don’t need an assistant.”

  She kept her fingers out. Wiggled them a little. “But, uh, he hired me.”

  He wasn’t taking her hand. Someone was sure being a hard sell.

  Julia let her stare dart over her shoulder before looking back at him. “I…I think my ride left a few moments ago.”

  His brow wrinkled. “You took a cab here?”

  No, actually, her partner had dropped her off, but she wouldn’t be getting into that right then. “Someone from town was nice enough to drop me off. Hathway—he got me a room last night at one of the hotels, and the assistant manager brought me over.” She exhaled quickly. “Look, I promise, I’m qualified. I’ll do the job, and I won’t get in your way.”

  As if on perfect cue, a bolt of lightning lit up the sky, and then ominous thunder rolled in the distance. Julia fought a smile. Surely, even hard-hearted Bran wouldn’t kick out a woman when a storm was coming.

  He finally reached for her hand. Just as she was about to drop her fingers. His skin was warm, and she felt calluses on the edges of his fingertips. Probably from playing the guitar so often. She expected the strength and power of his shake, but what she hadn’t expected—and what she did not like—was the fast lick of sensual awareness that flooded through her at his touch. It was like a zap of electricity that shot straight from her hand to her heart. Surprise had her sucking in a sharp breath.

  “I am not going to sleep with you,” Bran growled.

  Her jaw dropped. She snatched her hand back. “Good. Because that is not part of the job description.”

  His eyes widened. “I didn’t mean—”

  She shouldered past him. A good technique for getting off the porch and into the mansion that the guy called a cabin. Seriously, the place was huge. Three stories, with porches on every level. As she’d approached the house, the lights had blazed from the pretty much floor-to-ceiling windows that filled every level of the residence. Perched on the top of a mountain, the place was absolutely secluded.

  Good if you liked your privacy.

  Bad if you, oh, say…had a crazy stalker on your trail. Very bad then.

  There was only one other cabin on the mountaintop. She knew because she’d done her recon work. Her partner had secured lodging there so that he’d be close by if she should need him.

  Julia put down her bag. Shoved her hands into the back pockets of her jeans and tried to focus on appearing nervous. Vulnerable. “I don’t know what kind of woman you are used to…” Now she swung her gaze back to him. “But I don’t have sex with men as any part of a job.”

  Had his cheeks just flushed? No way. Surely, she hadn’t made the bad boy of rock blush. Must be a trick of the light.

  He slammed the door closed. Growled again. And took a step toward her—

  “You didn’t lock it,” Julia pointed out quietly.

  His dark brows immediately shot up.

  “The door,” she prompted. “You shut it, but you didn’t lock it. You should always lock a door when it shuts. You never know who is going to be waiting outside.”

  Now he blinked.

  She tried a half-smile.

  “Bears are waiting outside.” His voice was a rumble.

  “All the more reason to lock the door. I bet bears have trouble with locks.”

  Another slow blink from him. She kept her half-smile in place.

  With a curse, he turned away. And locked the door.

  Jeez, no wonder his manager had been worried. If the guy was just leaving doors unlocked, he might as well be inviting his stalker to come right inside and join him for tea.

  “Happy now?” He stalked toward her.

  She wasn’t happy. Not with any part of the situation. But she was inside and the door was locked, so Julia figured she was making progress.

  “I’m supposed to help with the cooking.” She didn’t wince as she made that announcement. Score one for her. But since she would be cooking…Pray for us both. Cooking had never been big on her skill set. “I was also told to handle your email accounts. Your social media profiles. To work on correspondence from fans…” She rocked forward onto the balls of her feet as he simply stared at her. “You know, that whole sort of thing.”

  “An assistant has never stayed at the cabin with me before. I come up here because I want to get away from people.” He was about a foot away. His scent—crisp, clean, masculine—teased her nose. “Not because I want a live-in assistant.”

  “Mr. Hathway—”

  Another growl. Wow. No one had mentioned the guy was so growly. Sure, she knew he had a dark, raspy voice—okay, a sexy voice. But those growls were
making little shivers dance down her spine. Not a response she liked.

  Julia gave a careful cough. “Ah, Hathway,” she said, dropping the apparently offensive Mr. before the name, “he thought by having me here, you could actually get more work done. He said you were hoping to write five new songs and that due to your recent accident—” Accident, near death experience, stalker attack—whatever he wanted to call it. “Due to that, you were behind schedule.”

  Bran’s gaze slowly traveled down her body. Moving from the top of her head, down over her long, loose top, down her jean-encased legs…to her sneaker-clad feet. Then back up again.

  She let her smile stretch a little. She’d been told she had a pretty disarming smile. One Julia wasn’t afraid to use in order to get what she want.

  “I don’t want you here.”

  Oh, oh, that stung. Her smile slipped. She sucked in a breath. Time to play hardball. Behind the lenses of her glasses, she blinked a few times. “I-I’m sorry.” Now she reached for her bag and did a tiny shuffle step forward. “I’ll walk to town. I’ll…I’m sure I can find another job.” She was looking at the floor. Not him. “I mean, I quit my last job because this seemed like such a good opportunity, and I sublet my apartment, but I mean… I can stay in a motel or I can—”

  “Stop.”

  She didn’t look at him.

  Or, at least, she didn’t until his hand curled under her chin and he tilted her face up. “I don’t want you here, but you aren’t leaving.”

  Well, of course, she wasn’t leaving. Good of him to finally realize that fact.

  “But we have to get some ground rules in place.”

  Wait a minute. Was his thumb caressing her chin? It sure felt like it. A gentle glide of his thumb against her skin that made her heart give a fast and furious jerk.

  His eyes widened as he seemed to catch himself, and Bran immediately dropped his hand. Dropped the hand and stepped back. “Ground rules,” he growled.

  He needed to stop that sexy growl.

  “My room is on the second floor. Yours will be on the first.” He pointed toward a hallway.

  She didn’t look. She’d find the room soon enough. Being on the first floor was exactly where she wanted to be—from a security standpoint.

 
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