RECKLESS Releasing 12/20/18
Copyright © 2018 by Sybil Bartel
Chapter One – Tyler
I pulled into the underground parking at work as my cell rang, glancing at the display on the dash before answering. “What’s up, boss? You beat me into work again?” André Luna was the best boss I’d ever had, but the fucker never slept. It wasn’t even oh-seven-hundred.
“Change in plans. I need you at my place.”
I threw my Camaro into reverse. “I just pulled in to the office. What’s up? You never send me to your condo.” He protected the location like the address was a matter of national security. I was his only employee who even knew where he lived.
“Not my condo, floor below. The southeast unit.”
“You have two condos in that building?” How rich was he?
“For high-profile clients, when needed. Tax write-off,” he added.
Neither of us had grown up with shit, except big families. It’s why I’d joined the Marines. “All right, on my way.” I pulled out of the garage. “Anything I need to know?”
Luna half chuckled. “Plenty. But I’m gonna let this one speak for herself.”
The last time he was this cagey, I’d wound up with Hollywood’s hottest actress as my assignment, chasing her spoiled ass across the sand in South Beach as she tripped her ass off. She’d taken enough acid to incapacitate a damn platoon. I didn’t even know people still fucked with that shit. When I’d finally caught her, she wouldn’t come with me unless I rowed her back to shore. Rowed. She was on the damn sand, thinking she was neck-deep in water drowning. I had to legit make rowing motions with one arm as I carried her naked ass back to a company SUV.
The fucking videos were still on YouTube. Pretty Boy Bodyguard Nails Rowing Performance. Bodyguard Acts Better than Hollywood’s Darling.
“It’s too early in the morning for you to be screwing with me. Who’s the client?” I still had sand in those boots, and that pissed me off more than the paparazzi that night, which was saying something. Good boots were expensive.
Luna sobered. “I wish I was screwing with you. This is gonna be a first for us.” He paused. “If we take the assignment.”
“Why am I meeting a potential client if you aren’t decided?” Luna vetted all the clients. Religiously. He wasn’t the owner of the best security firm in the business because he fucked around.
“Well…,” he hedged.
He also never hedged. “This isn’t sounding good, boss.” At all.
“She asked for you,” he admitted.
I stopped at a light. “What? By like, name?” I wracked my brain, trying to think if I personally knew any women in trouble, let alone someone who could afford Luna and Associates’ hourly rates, but I was drawing a blank. Not to mention, I didn’t have time for women past the occasional no-strings hookup. I worked twenty-fucking-five hours a day, eight days a week. I wasn’t going to be poor and old, and I wanted to buy my mom a house. It was the least she deserved for raising five boys by herself.
“Yeah. You’re viral.” Luna was still pissed I’d gotten caught on video with the actress.
Anonymity was a bodyguard’s best asset, and I’d destroyed mine that night. But damn it, Luna had been radio silent and the only backup that showed was Tank. That fucker had been no help. He’d parked his ass by the seawall and watched the whole damn thing like it was a spectator sport.
“What did you want me to do? Let her keep running around the beach naked?” I’d done what I’d had to.
“You should’ve contained the situation before she wound up on the beach.”
I didn’t say shit, because he was right. That chick had been higher than a kite when she’d given me the slip. In my defense, I never thought she’d have it in her to escape the hotel suite after I’d left her in the bedroom. Live and learn. Tank took over once I got her in the SUV anyway, and now she was his assignment, so good riddance.
I pulled into Luna’s underground parking at his condo. “I’m downstairs. You sure you don’t want to tell me anything before I come up?”
“Nineteenth floor. Southeast unit.” He hung up.
I pulled in to a spot, equally curious and pissed off about walking into a potential hornet’s nest blind. I didn’t know what kind of client would warrant the meet at Luna’s place, but it had to be big.
Dreading the possibility of client politics, or worse, another spoiled Hollywood actress, I rode the elevator up and strode to the southeast unit. My hand fell to the gun on my right hip out of habit, and I knocked.
Luna opened the door immediately. “Living room.” He stepped back, letting me in.
I smelled her before I saw her.
Exotic spice mixed with ocean breeze, and I knew I was fucked. That kind of smell only came from someone with more money than I’d make in a hundred lifetimes—the kind of money that was generations deep. I may have grown up poor as hell, but this job had taught me there was all kinds of money.
This one was going to be classy.
I rounded the corner and almost froze in my tracks.
She wasn’t anything like the matriarch I was expecting. She was young.
And fucking stunning.
Covering my surprise, I smiled and, using my manners, held my hand out. “Damian Tyler, ma’am, but everyone calls me Tyler.”
Gorgeous, dark caramel-colored eyes looked at my hand then darted to my face, like she was as surprised to see me as I was her. Then her expression shut down, and her dark brown, almost black, hair shifted to cover half her face. Her hands clasped in front of her, resting regally against her white dress, she didn’t lift her slim, tanned arm to meet my gesture. She didn’t even move. She just stared at me.
Glancing at Luna, I dropped my hand.
Luna tipped his chin toward the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen. “This is Sophia Paradis.”
Caught in her unwavering gaze again, I stared back. “Okay.”
Luna glanced at her. “Keep going?”
She inclined her chin once.
“More specifically, this is Princess Calandra Sophia Paradis Spiros, of the Island Nation of Naximos,” Luna added. “She goes by Sophia in the States.”
Taken completely off guard, I frowned. “Nation?”
She spoke. “Naximos is an island in the Aegean Sea, and while it lies within the boundaries of the Greek islands, it is its own sovereignty.” Smooth and rich, and sexy as fucking hell, her slightly accented voice was an adrenaline rush to my system.
Every nerve in my body came alive, and my dick stirred. “Sovereignty,” I repeated, dumbstruck by her beauty and her voice.
“Yes.” Graceful and poised, she spoke as if every word was practiced and rehearsed for maximum effect, yet nothing she said seemed contrived. “Even though we are known as the Monte Carlo of Greece, we are not part of the country of Greece. We also do not base our entire economy on gambling. We are a resort destination.”
“And you’re the princess of this country?” Princess. An actual fucking princess.
Looking regal as hell, she nodded. “My father is the king.”
A real-life fucking princess.
Of a country I’d never heard of.
“Like Monte Carlo,” I added, trying to wrap my head around this.
Her eyebrows drew together slightly. “Well, yes and no. We have gambling, but we are not quite like Monte Carlo. We are a tourist destination.” She somehow managed to stand even straighter. “But that is of no importance to this meeting.”
She was a princess of a rich country. How could that not be important? “Not sure I buy that yet, but okay.”
She stood perfectly still as studied me a moment. “I am not here with any matter having to do with my home country.”
“Okay.” Staring at her had apparently made me incapable of saying shit else.
“I am here on a personal matter,” she insisted.
Unwavering eye contact, perfect poise, killer dress hugging her curves—Jesus, she was beautiful. But I didn’t believe what she was saying for a hot second. “A personal matter that’s got nothing to do with the fact that you’re a princess.” Right. Not that I knew shit about royalty, but I’d bet my bank account that all their personal matters revolved around being royal.
“That is what I said.”
Uh-huh. “Okay.” Jesus, did I have any other fucking vocabulary?
Luna cut in. “Why don’t you tell us why you’re here, Ms. Paradis.”
“Security,” she said simply.
“And that doesn’t have to do with you being a princess?” Was she for real?
For half a second, a slight frown drew her eyebrows together before she hid it with her perfect princess mask. “I am not sure you are hearing me, Mr. Tyler.”
I’d heard every damn accented word. “I’m not deaf, Princess.” Sophia, Calandra, whatever the fuck her title or name was.
“Ms. Paradis,” she corrected, before proceeding to school me. “Or Sophia, if you must, but not Princess. I do not advertise, nor go by my title in the States. As I am sure you can understand, it is neither necessary nor prudent. Just as I imagine you prefer to not be referred to as the pretty-boy bodyguard.”
Luna fought a smile.
I side-eyed him, then looked back to the woman who was too damn beautiful and too damn young to be so formal. Ignoring her comment about my looks, because it was nothing new—I’d been taking shit my whole life for being a pretty boy—I repeated what she’d said. “Naximos. Some island in the Aegean Sea. The next Monte Carlo. Gambling, hotels, yachts, probably tax exempt, but nothing to do with why you’re here.” I fucking got it. I wasn’t stupid, but what I didn’t get was why she was in Miami Beach. “What does this have to do with me?”
She dropped her hands to her sides, and the bracelets on her arm clinked together like a wind chime. “I have an event tomorrow. An art opening at Yassas Gallery, followed by a party at my residence. I need unobtrusive security, and you will blend in well.” Her gaze scanned my body. “I have someone waiting to take your measurements.”
What the fuck? “Measurements?”
“It’s a formal event,” she stated, sounding like her patience was waning, even though her tone and body language didn’t change. “I will provide you with proper attire.”
Hell no. “I haven’t agreed to anything.” There was something she was leaving out. A big fucking something. “Why do you need a bodyguard?”
She glanced at Luna. When he didn’t say shit, she looked back at me. “As I told Mr. Luna, I will be wearing jewels.”
I studied her.
“Expensive jewels,” she added.
My bullshit meter went on high alert. “And you’re worried they’ll be stolen?”
She looked me right in the eye. “Yes.”
Damn, she was a good liar. “Then don’t wear them.”
Her gaze drifted, and she inhaled, then she looked back at me. “They are a part of the opening.”
I glanced at Luna, looking to see if he was buying her brand of bullshit, but he had the same look I did. We both knew she was full of it. Something was up.
Luna cleared his throat and pushed off the couch he’d been leaning against. “It was a pleasure meeting you, Ms. Paradis. I will confer with our team and get back to you by the end of the day.”
“No.” She shook her head. Then she crossed her arms, and her tone turned indignant. “No team. I want your answer now. It is a yes or a no. If you do not have the ability to make a decision right now, then you are not the right firm for this assignment.”
Luna stiffened. “With all due respect, ma’am, you didn’t ask for my firm. You asked for my employee. If you’d asked for me, I would’ve declined your business ten minutes ago. You’re withholding information, the gallery show you mentioned is part of a very large, very publicized four-day international event, and you’re paranoid enough to have not come with your own secret service to this meeting.” Luna tipped his chin toward me while keeping his punishing stare focused on the princess. “So if you want Tyler to attend the event with you, you’re going to have to wait for an answer until we confer in private.”
Color hit her cheeks, but her posture remained royally proud. “Then I will wait.”