Taylor Marshal and her daughter need protecting, yet the bodyguard assigned is the one man she fears the most.
Four years earlier, Taylor gave her heart to a stranger – and married him in a quick Bermuda ceremony. A week later her hopes were crushed when she finds out her new husband, Cory Ross, was a hit man. When she witnesses him take another man’s life then watches her new found love fall from a cliff after being shot, her heart shatters. Now she sees Cory Ross is alive – and back in her life as her own personal bodyguard, yet how can she trust him?
Cory thought his luck had changed after his near death experience in the Bahamas. But when he looks into the eyes of the woman who he suspects had something to do with his accident, he realizes his new assignment to protect Taylor and her young daughter will be a literal nightmare. But to fall in love all over again with Taylor Marshall will be sheer torture.
If not for the chills rushing over her skin and multiplying quickly, Taylor Mitchell would think today’s stroll in the park was like any other day with her daughter. A soft, autumn wind blew through the trees and stirred a lock of hair against Taylor’s cheek as if to soothe her.
Instead, fear pumped through her like a disease, cold and impetuous. She sucked in a quick breath. Remember, breathe. In through the nose, out through the mouth. She peered over her shoulder and glanced at the cluster of trees near the edge of the park. Nobody looked her way, but it was as if somebody’s gaze crawled over her. Trepidation of the unknown raked through her like jagged fingernails.
Taylor tightened her hands on the handle of the baby stroller and pushed it faster. Instead of walking to the swing-set like she’d promised her daughter, she headed back toward the parking lot.
Three-year-old Megan tilted her head and looked at her with sad eyes. “Mommy? I wanna swing.”
“Not today.” Taylor bit her tongue, wishing her tone hadn’t been so sharp. Instinct told her to get out of there as fast as she could.
Meggie’s big blue eyes filled with tears and her bottom lip protruded. “I wanna swing.”
Taylor tried her best to smile, but her unsettled nerves made her lips quiver. “Meggie, let’s go home and make some cookies. Doesn’t that sound fun?”
Meggie shrugged. “O-tay, but I wanna swing.”
Taylor glanced around the park, taking in the number of people standing by the fenced pond, the park benches, and the jungle gym. Since it was lunchtime, many walked toward the group of trees near the picnic areas. Out of all the people who surrounded her, there wasn’t one she detected watching her every move. Still, the unidentified terror rushing through her testified differently.
The closer to the parking lot she came, the more she wanted to break into a run. It was bad enough her poor daughter’s head bounced in rocky rhythm as they dashed over the grassy knoll. The heavy pounding of Taylor’s heart knocked through her chest, overriding the steps her athletic shoes made as they slapped the ground. Her car wasn’t much farther.
Who’d be doing this to her? Could it be one of the many people threatening her father? She should be used to this since he’d been threatened a lot in his profession. Although, this time was different. Her father had acted different.
She clenched her jaw. Two nights ago, her father informed her he’d been receiving threatening letters again. Threats weren’t unusual for multi-billionaire Leland Mitchell, but he had mentioned hiring a bodyguard to protect her. She’d argued. Her safety had been just fine during her twenty-six years.
Almost to the car...
Taylor slowed as she neared her shiny silver Audi. She calmed her breathing, hoping to ease the panic lodged in her dry throat. When she stopped, her legs wobbled and her hands shook. As she reached to unlatch her daughter, she glanced over her shoulder. The cars that filled the parking lot held no immediate threat—none she could see, anyway.
Meggie giggled and clapped. “Fun, Mommy. Do it again.”
Taylor didn’t want to laugh, but the sweet cherub face of her red-cheeked daughter had her smiling anyway. “I don’t think so, honey. Mommy’s all out of breath from running.”
“You were fast.” Meggie giggled. “It tickled my tummy.”
The burning in Taylor’s throat matched the pain in her chest, and under her breath, she grumbled for feeling like she was out of shape. She wasn’t, but fear made her body weak. She bent and rested her hands on her knees, breathing in deep gushes of air. Perhaps she was overreacting. She glanced behind her at each car. As far as she could tell, nobody had followed.
She blamed her father for putting fear into her. He’d drained the fun out of her childhood and teenage years by being so overprotective; she didn’t want him doing it any longer. She’d told him time and time again she needed to control her own life, not live under the Mitchell Dynasty’s thumb.
Once she helped Meggie out of her stroller, her daughter ran to the back of the car to help put it in the trunk.
“No, honey, we’ll just put this in the back seat.”
Meggie shrugged and skipped to her side.
The keys rattled as Taylor reached with a shaky hand to hit the unlock button. She took a deep breath. Steady. Aiming, she clicked the remote and the doors unlocked. She yanked the door open and motioned to her daughter. “Hurry inside, honey.”
Heavy footsteps thudded on the pavement behind her. She turned her head and glanced in the direction of the sound. A man barreled toward her wearing a gray jogging suit and a black knit cap that covered most of his forehead. His heavy shoulder slammed into Taylor and her body struck the car. Pain raced up her spine as breath whooshed from her. The keys fell from her hands.
He yanked Meggie and hooked her underneath his arm. Her daughter cried and stretched with outstretched arms.
Fear gripped Taylor’s throat and made it impossible to scream. She lunged for her daughter and grabbed at the man’s baggy sleeve. With his elbow to her side, he shoved her away. The corner of the door struck her back with the force of a sledgehammer and she collapsed to the pavement. The man zigzagged between the vehicles and dashed away.
Regardless of the pain, she yelled, “Help me. He’s got my baby.”
Tears sprang to her eyes and blurred her vision. She scrambled to her feet and broke into a run. Her lungs ached, her throat burned. The faster she ran, the weaker her legs became, but she couldn’t stop. She also couldn’t stop screaming, although nobody seemed to care—or help.
The man headed for the clump of trees while Meggie cried out for her. Held like a football in this monster’s arms, Meggie’s head bounced as she reached out her arms toward Taylor. Big tears streaked down her daughter’s face.
As he ran toward the other side of the park, fear suffocated Taylor. Soon he’d be out of sight.
She tripped and her body flew through the air. When she landed, her heart crumbled. An intense sting ripped through her bruised knees and scratched hands. A loud sob tore from her throat and tears streamed down her face. She couldn’t stop now. Limbs shaking, she struggled to her feet.
A man in a business suit ran by her, holding a gun, as he headed directly for the monster who’d taken Meggie. The man in the suit suddenly stopped. Standing still, legs apart, he pointed his gun.
“No! Don’t shoot…” She sprang toward him, adrenaline pumping through her weak limbs.
The precise pop of the gun made her heart leap to her throat. She stopped and clutched her churning stomach.
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