Keegan James was all about his career in the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Until he let his heart get in the way of his good sense and he started thinking about marriage and the future. She was too, just with someone else. So, he did what any smart, jilted lover would do- quit his job and moved to the beach. Sort of.
About to start a new career with the Border Patrol, Keegan buys an old farm on a whim. It needs a ton of work—or a total tear down—but it’s awesome and will make the perfect bachelor pad. Too bad the entire property is under investigation by the DEA for drug trafficking and the agent on the case thinks he’s involved.
What’s worse? Said agent is smart, sexy and really good with a gun.
Nikki Keegan has had to prove herself every step of the way to get where she is. If her boss weren’t her father’s best friend and her ex wasn’t a complete idiot, maybe it would have been different. As it stands, she is about to break the case of her career. And, possibly arrest the sexiest man she’d met in a really long time.
When it becomes obvious that Keegan isn’t her perp nor is it drugs that are being moved off his property, will two stubborn, totally by the book federal agents throw caution to the wind or let the chance at love slip away with the tide?
“Have you thought about joining one of them online dating sites?’ his mother inquired before he even had his seat belt on.
“Mom.” He sighed as he turned the key and put the car in gear. “Give it a rest, would you please?” Keegan pulled onto the road and back toward the more populated area of the city and his temporary rental but Clara had no intention of letting anything rest.
“Come on, it’s easy. You just fill out a profile and let the ladies find you.”
Keegan groaned. “It’s not that easy, Ma. Finding a wife is not like going to the grocery store. I can’t make a shopping list of attributes and just fall in love because some computer program says I should.”
“Well, nothing else seems to be working for you. Your brother found love; Logan is happy. I just want you to have what they have.”
“I’m going to be pretty busy here for a while, Ma. There isn’t going to be time to have a relationship with anyone except my contractor and the construction supply company.”
Clara sat back and folder her arms across her chest. “You would deny your mother the chance to know you are happy before she dies?”
“Let it go already, Ma. Please. I can’t force someone to love me just to make you happy.” Or for any reason at all. A lesson he had learned the hard way—at the expense of his career hard way.
“Well, you can’t fault a mother for trying.” Clara turned to look out the window and things became eerily silent. Whenever his mother was quiet too long, Keegan got worried. She was probably concocting some plan that he was going to hate.
“What about one of those foreign things? You know, brides from other countries?”
Keegan slammed on the brakes, sending the BMW into a slight fishtail before it came to a stop. Gripping the steering wheel, Keegan struggled to maintain his composure. Clara was his mother after all. “You. Want. Me. To. Get. A. Mail. Order. Bride?”
“Sure, why not? Hank, in my group has one. So does your Uncle Joe.”
“What the hell, Ma?” He turned to look at Clara. “I’m not desperate! I’m perfectly happy with my life and I would suggest you let this drop now!”
“You would take that tone with your own mother?” Clara clasped her hands over her heart. “When my only wish is to see you happy and taken care of?”
Keegan put the car back in gear and started driving again. “Let it drop, Ma.”
Clara let out a little sigh and folded her hands in her lap. “For now.”
Nikki followed Logan’s wife out the front door. After being inside the windowless house, the morning sunshine seemed especially bright. As they walked around the side of what Nikki had thought was a small cabin, what she saw stopped her in her tracks. The view of the Blue Ridge Mountains was absolutely breathtaking. The greens of the trees against the blue of the sky and tendrils of early morning fog weaving in and out of the mountain tops painted a picture that no words could do justice.
Angie looked at her over her shoulder. “I know. It blew me away the first time too.”
“How long have you and Logan been married?”
“Just about a year. We had a quick romance, I guess.” Angelina laughed.
“That’s what Keegan said about Kaiden and Katie.”
“The James men are pretty intense and when they make up their minds about something they go after it. No messing around.”
Nikki nodded. “They are intense.”
“Keegan has already made up his mind about you. I can see it in his eyes. He is head over heels for you.”
“We just met less than a week ago.”
“I knew Logan loved me two days in. Of course, our courting period happened while we were on the run from mercenaries that wanted me dead so we may have felt a bit of pressure to get things out in the open.” She laughed again and motioned for Nikki to follow her. A few hundred feet away was a patio with comfortable oversized chairs and an awning. Angelina lowered herself into one of the chairs and waved Nikki to the one beside her. “So much better to sit.”
“I’m not sure I’ll ever have a baby. Pregnancy seems so hard. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that.”
Angelina smiled. “No worries. It is hard. The hardest part is being on leave and not be able to go after the bad guys anymore. I would give my left arm—not my right because that’s my gun hand—to be there when Salvatore goes down but they are right, I need to stay here.”
“Is there anything you would like to say to him? I mean, I could pass on a message for you when we get him.”
“A well placed knee to his crotch would make me exceptionally happy.”
Nikki grinned. “You got it. I mean, as long as those boys don’t go all macho on me and cut me out of the action.”
“Ah, so that’s what’s bothering you.”
“Come again?” Nikki tried not to sound annoyed but she wasn’t very successful. She sounded like a bitch even to her own ears.
“I read people very well. You were pretty pissed in there.”
She shrugged. “I was. Am. This started out as my investigation. I know I have to share it with the ATF but honestly, they have all hijacked it totally. I’m just an onlooker now and I’m the one that did all the leg work.”
“You know why, right?” Angelina smiled and patted her arm.
“Because I am a woman?”
“Oh, no. The James men are not like that, Clara would kick every one of their asses off the side of this mountain if they were.”
Nikki sat forward and looked Angelina in the eye. “Then what the hell is wrong with them? Do I threaten their masculinity or something?”
“I told you, Keegan is in love with you.”
Nikki shook her head. “No, he isn’t. We just met.”
“Doesn’t matter. He has decided you are the one and once a James decides they love someone, you are instantly inside their circle of wagons, so to speak. They are protecting you now.”
“I don’t need protection. I want to do my job.”
“Then stand up to them. Don’t let them shut you out. Even though they aren’t trying to do that, they will in a heartbeat if it keeps you safe. Logan about lost it when I was shot. He wouldn’t even let me go to the bathroom alone for months. I had to sneak away when he was asleep to go to the supermarket. They love hard, those guys, but they love with every fiber of their being.”
“I’m not sure I’m ready for all that.”
“I wasn’t either but they grow on you. Or wear you down. One or the other.” Angelina chuckled as she appeared to slip away for a moment into a private memory. “Anyway, if you don’t mind me saying, it is my opinion that you are more ready than you think you are. I see the way you watch him and the way he touches you whenever he can and it makes you blush just a little. Keegan is a really good man, Nikki. I hope you won’t be scared off by his intensity. He needs someone like you to even him out.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR…
Carolyn LaRoche grew up in snow country but fled the cold and ice several years ago. She now lives near the beach with her husband, their two boys, two finicky cats and one old dog. When she is not at the baseball field cheering on big hits and home runs, she is busy teaching science to unwilling teenagers.