Tempting the Bodyguard
Gamble Brothers - 3
J. Lynn, Jennifer L. Armentrout
Dedicated to everyone out there who thought it would be super sweet to be in the arms of a Gamble brother.
Spread across the recently polished coffee table, twenty letters were open and faceup. The faint smell of lemon lingered in the air, a scent that reminded Alana Gore of her grandmother’s house. Granny Gore had been obsessed with Pine-Sol like it was a geriatric version of crack cocaine. Everything, including the hardwood floors, had been doused in the stuff. As a small child, Alana had spent many of her afternoons after school using the hallway downstairs in the quiet home as a Slip’N Slide.
Granny had always kept everything neat and clean, to the point that it was borderline disturbing, which explained why Alana, as an adult, couldn’t stand things to be displaced or messy. Everything had to be in order and have a purpose.
And what was resting on her coffee table definitely was not a part of the plan—of any plan.
Alana took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Well, shit on a shitter.”
Granny rolled over in her grave.
Cursing was unladylike, and while Alana strived to maintain a sensible, responsible image, in private, she cursed like a street thug in the middle of a drug deal gone baaaad. A habit she’d picked up in high school and hadn’t been able to break since.
She leaned forward and picked up the most recent letter, the one that had arrived in the mail today—the one she had been dreading since February.
After working to repair the notorious reputation—which she had done so spectacularly, like always—of Chad Gamble, all-star pitcher for the Nationals, she’d decided to stay in Washington, D.C. There was something about the nation’s capital that had drawn her in, and she really hadn’t put roots down in L.A., not the kind that had her yearning to return home while traveling for work. All she had there was a small condo, and besides, she’d wanted out of the city for other reasons.
Like the letters lying on her table.
In her mind, moving to D.C. should’ve stopped this, because who would’ve seriously put effort into finding her clear across the country, in a different time zone? Someone who was absolutely psychotic.
And, well, that was problematic.
Smoothing the stray hairs at her temples, she cursed again. A nice, juicy little F-bomb. Her hands were not shaking. She was fine. They were just stupid letters from someone who was obviously on the deranged side of things. Letters couldn’t hurt people.
But these letters…
Alana picked up the newest one, her lips compressing into a tight, tense line that would surely give her premature wrinkles. A shudder worked its way down her spine as she read the letter for the tenth time.
“God,” she whispered, shaking her head.
This letter wasn’t much different than the nineteen that had come before it. All had been annoying and slightly disturbing, but nothing major, because after all, she’d made more enemies than friends over the last couple of years. But this one terrified her. Made her feel overexposed and paranoid, as if someone were stalking her.
“Obviously someone is, dumbass,” she muttered, willing her hand to stop trembling.
The envelope the letter had come in was white and this time, unlike all the other times, it was postmarked from Arlington, Virginia. Before, they’d come from the San Fernando Valley, California.
The letter itself was plain, cheap printer stock. Thin and without any embellishments. Didn’t she deserve at least card stock and some elegant flowery border? She snorted, but the humor was short-lived. The words on the paper weren’t funny.
Bitches like you don’t deserve to live when all you do is ruin lives.
What a charming opening line, she thought. The letter went on from there, like the others, rambling about how she shouldn’t be able to sleep at night and that he—she assumed it was a he—would be watching. The big difference this time, besides the fact that he’d found her in D.C., was the ending.
I’ll be seeing you tonight.
Her breath caught and pressure seized her chest.
It didn’t matter how many times she’d read that last line. Each time her eyes crawled across those five words, she felt the burn in her throat, the building in the back of her mouth. She wanted to scream, and she never screamed.
Placing the letter beside the others in a neat line, she then stood on weak legs. Her fingers icy and numb, she walked across the living room to the window overlooking the teeming street below. Traffic was snarled due to the rush hour and sidewalks were packed. Branches on a few late-blooming cherry blossoms in the distance swayed.
Her gaze moved from the faint pink blossoms to the people scurrying along the sidewalk and darting across the street, dodging taxis and towncars.
Could he be down there right this second, watching her?
She stopped herself from backing away from the window, from caving into fear, and squeezed her eyes shut. No way could she allow herself to think that. She’d end up like her mother then. She wouldn’t let this…this fucker do this to her. Only she had control of her life and her choices.
“Focus,” she said, rubbing tiny circles along her temples.
She twisted away from the window and opened her eyes. The room was minimalistic in design, muted colors of black and gray. As a kid, she’d wanted everything to be in Rainbow Brite colors. That was before she’d developed something called taste.
Or before she’d ended up with the stick up her ass.
Wasn’t that what Chad had said to her once during her assignment? He wouldn’t have been the first to say it. Or the last.
Her heels clicked off the hardwood floor as she went back to the coffee table. She dropped her hands to her hips, her eyes narrowing behind her glasses. She had to fix this, gain control of the situation. It was the only option. But doing so required that she take the threats seriously. Ignoring these letters, like she had been for the last year, was like ignoring an ache that wouldn’t go away. No good shit comes from that.
She needed to figure out who was behind these letters, and that wasn’t going to be easy. Granny always said that her brass balls—lovely—were never going to win her any friends or a husband.
Apparently, they had won her a stalker, though.
That had to count for something.
Alana had quite the list of people who had reason to be upset with her, too. But to send her threatening letters for a year? The latest even going as far as to warn that he’d be seeing her tonight? Sure, she ticked people off with her hard-nosed tactics, but those facts had to narrow down the pool of suspects. While she had excellent sleuthing skills, that’s not what she needed tonight.
She needed protection.
And she knew who to go to.
Hopefully he would be wearing more than boxers this time around. Although, she wasn’t going to complain about the eyeful she had gotten when she’d tracked down Chad to his brother’s house nearly three months ago.
Through the course of her career working with sports stars and actors, she had seen a lot of good-looking men—men who would have sensible women all across the nation dropping their panties. But that man, the eldest Gamble brother, had officially been the hottest male she’d ever laid eyes on. She wasn’t sure if it was the wild shoulder-length hair or those startling blue eyes. Or it could’ve been those incredibly wide shoulders that would make any woman feel petite, or that rock-hard chest and those abs…
“What am I doing?” She smacked her forehead with her palm, pushing those thoughts aside.
Going to him for help had nothing to do with envisioning him in those boxers or showing off those hard, naked abs, no matter how touchable those abs appeared to be. And the last thing she needed to be doing right now was mentally molesting the man. It was highly unlikely that he’d be happy to see her, but he sort of owed her his services. She had played a rather excellent matchmaker when it came to his brother and Ms. Rodgers.
She was still waiting on that wedding invitation.
Scooping up the letters, Alana placed them inside a file folder labeled asshole and shoved the folder into her leather satchel. She left her apartment, in search of a very different type of asshole.
Chandler Gamble’s phone vibrated in the pocket of his jeans for the second time in the last hour. He needed to continue ignoring it. He should ignore it. What was going on in front of him should have his undivided attention. Any other time, it would.
On her knees between his widespread legs, Paula was in a position he doubted she was normally in when it came to her day job, being a district attorney and all. She ran her hands up and down his thighs, each pass bringing the tips of her red-painted fingernails to the center of his legs. Her movements were well practiced. She knew what he liked.
The red corset she wore was laced up tight, practically shoving her caramel-colored breasts up to her chin. Some men were into breasts, others more about the ass. Chandler was into the female body in general. All of it. But when he was with Paula, he turned into a breast man. Those things were the stuff that wet dreams were made of.
But tonight? The last couple of months? The head on his shoulders was doing more thinking than any other place on his body, which was kind of a damn shame.