The sting of this Scorpio is unforgettably hot...
Ivy Danforth is out from under her Colonel father's overprotective control, and she's making it count. Big time. She's taken the summer off to travel through Australia with her bestie and experiencing all that life has to offer-when you're not under constant military surveillance. She wants to end her summer with some sexy fun, and she has just the hottie in mind.
Seth Rodrigo is ex-Special Forces working undercover and keeping an eye on Ivy as a special favor to her father. All he has to do is not give the game away and reveal who he really is. And especially not give into the hunger that's burning through his careful control...
Then they're forced into protective custody. Alone. Together. For four days. And this time, the Colonel's daughter isn't taking no for an answer...
The Colonel’s Daughter
by Amy Andrews
Copyright © 2015 by Amy Andrews. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.
Chapter OneSeth Rodrigo had a real itch up his spine tonight. An instinct that had served him well in his thirty-two years. He’d had it since he’d started working in this dive over two months ago, but it was worse tonight. No matter how crowded the bar or how loud the background music, he just couldn’t shake it.
Two weeks. That was all he had left of his twelve-week assignment and it had to ramp up tonight.
He scanned the heavily populated dance floor, his mind alert for any impending trouble amongst the liquored-up crowd.
The exits were clear. No one loitering or misbehaving, no secretive deals being done.
Yet, the itch persisted. Probably two and a half months of three a.m. finishes at a crappy club in Sydney’s infamous red light district.
That shit got old fast.
His gaze shifted to the long wooden bar. Three waitresses and one waiter served drinks as they struggled to hear orders over the deafening bass and the jostling and shouting of everyone around them.
The New York Stock Exchange had nothing on this.
He glanced at the woman with pastel pink hair in the middle of it all. Curvy, big eyes, full mouth painted a bright, come-kiss-me pink. Her lips broke into a broad grin as she handed a drink over and he dragged his eyes away.
Jesus. You need to get laid, man.
But God, not her. Not the Colonel’s daughter, the sole reason he was undercover in this Kings Cross shithole in the first place.
Seth looked again, his gaze deliberately seeking the cute little redhead this time. Petite. Gorgeous. Looked like she knew her way around a man’s body. Perfect. Or the brunette with legs up to her armpits and a very frank stare. Hell, any of about five women, tonight or any given night, that had let him know in no uncertain terms they’d gladly play a while.
Anyone but Ivy.
Ivy. Goddamn it. Just her name made him hot.
So straight-laced and old-fashioned.
And in a lot of ways she was, smiling and glancing at him shyly, peeking out from under that glossy pink fringe when she thought he wasn’t watching. Awkward when she spoke to him, but confident around her peers and with the customers. Witty and friendly with a low, husky laugh that made his balls ache every time it escaped her pretty pink mouth.
In ten short weeks he’d become completely obsessed with her mouth.
The Colonel would have him quietly murdered if he had even the slightest inkling of the things Seth imagined doing with that mouth.
The Colonel to whom he owed his life.
He was here in this bar playing bouncer to protect the woman from danger, which included panting Neanderthals like him. Colonel’s orders.
Not that she was even a woman really. She was twenty-three, for Christ’s sake. And blushed like a teenager.
But those sweet curves and that mouth…they were all grown up.
Fuck. He was a dead man. The Colonel was going to put a hit on him for sure. Hell, he’d probably do the job himself.
Only two more weeks to tough it out, then he could blow this joint and never see Ivy Danforth and her mouth ever again.
“This place is pumping tonight.”
The low voice in Seth’s ear startled the crap out of him. He put his finger to the earpiece and dragged his mind off Ivy. Where it does not belong.
“Deano? You there?”
“Sorry…yes, Gaz,” Seth replied. As far as everyone at the Cross Bar was concerned, Seth Rodrigo, security consultant, was Dean Bennett, bouncer. And that was just fine by him. It wasn’t like he was ever coming back to this dump. “All quiet in my quadrant,” he confirmed.
Except the mad thud of his pulse as the itch ramped up a little more.
Ivy glanced at Dean for about the hundredth time that night, peeking up at him through her fringe as she pointed the soda gun into the glass with a double shot of rum and hit the Coke button.
Gawd, he was sexy. Every time she looked at him, he was just more. She’d never met a guy who was so freaking alpha.
And there’d been a lot of tough-guy soldiers in her life.
She’d bet her last cent Dean was ex-military. A lot of security guys were. The way he carried himself. His confidence. His economy of movement. His innate control. The other bouncers, despite their training, sucked at diffusing situations. They got all Cro-Magnon and inflamed the hell out of things, using their muscles rather than their mouths.
He knew how to read a situation and could rapidly diffuse it with a word or a glare. He was more about the brain than the brawn, although God knew he had that, too, with shoulders and biceps stretching the limits of his standard black T-shirt and long, powerful quads testing the seams of his black trousers.
All that before she even got to his face. Lordy, she’d never seen a more beautifully masculine face. A cleanly shaven jaw sat in perfect counterpoint to his strong forehead. Olive skin stretched taut over cheekbones supermodels would kill for. Sinfully full lips hinted at dark deeds. Eyes the shade of rich molasses peered out from behind a long sweep of charcoal lashes which should have been girly, but just watching the man blink was a study in pure masculine symmetry.
It was his hair, however, that drew her gaze. Thick and wavy, the same color as his eyes, it looked soft and inviting. God alone knew she wanted to sink her fingers into it so damn bad.
Her father would have prescribed a haircut but to Ivy he looked like a Romani prince. Sexy and dangerous.
But the man never looked at her, or not for long, anyway. He just scanned. Sweeping across the room in the same pattern, never lingering or slowing to check her out or give her a smile like the other bouncers.
Always just scanning, scanning, scanning.
She, however, was constantly aware of him, her body on high alert. She may not be super experienced with men but she knew what it felt like to be aroused. And it was crazy that he could do so from ten feet away in a crowded room without even touching her.
Hell, barely even looking at her.
If he ever did touch her with any kind of sexual intent she’d probably come on the spot. Who was she kidding? She’d probably orgasm if he just accidentally brushed up against her.
But he didn’t do that. He never did that.
Even driving her and Merry home every night after work—something he’d insisted on doing when he’d discovered they walked—he kept his distance.
The strong silent type, that’s what Merry called him, and she was right. It wasn’t that he didn’t talk, he just didn’t do conversation. No matter how hard she and her friend tried to dig in their ten-minute drive home, he gave nothing way. He was polite to a fault but always played his cards close to his chest.
Which was probably just as well given the devastating effect of his English accent. The first time she’d met him, Ivy had been prepared for deep and sexy. One of those low rumbles that took the laid-back Aussie drawl to a whole other level. She hadn’t been prepared for a smooth-as-silk English accent, the slight poshness oozing over her body rich as double cream.
She hadn’t been prepared for Richard freaking Armitage.
And wasn’t that just the cherry on her virgin pie…
Not that it mattered, she wasn’t in Dean Bennet’s league. He was the kind of guy who dated flamenco dancers or famous actresses or multi-lingual international human-rights lawyers. Not sheltered, little daddy’s girls who blushed whenever he was around.
Thankfully she only had two more weeks to endure. Then Dean Bennet and his perfect face and his gorgeous hair and his sexy accent would be far behind her.
And she wouldn’t think about him one little bit.
“I see you looo-king,” Merry chimed close to her ear over the noise as she pulled up alongside to scoop ice out of the ice-sink.
“I’m just…trying to see the boss,” she fibbed.
“Ah huh, sure.” Merry laughed. “I can see you blushing from here.”
Considering the bar area wasn’t exactly well lit that was saying something.
Ivy cursed her alabaster complexion as she handed the drink over and the change. Not that she’d ever been much of a blusher. Until she met Dean. For some reason she’d turned into a red-faced, tongue-tied, hormone-addled teenager with a first crush. She felt like an idiot.
No wonder he barely said two words to her.
“It’s okay to look,” Merry said as she joined Ivy at the till, waiting her turn. “Hell, if I had my way there’d be a whole lot more than looking going on. I’d love to sink my teeth into that one. He’s all-day sucker material for sure.”
Just thinking about sucking on Dean gave her palpitations. In her chest. And lower. Way lower. Ivy wouldn’t have thought that was even possible. But now she knew that no part of her body was immune to his certain brand of tall, dark, and hell yeah.
“I bet he comes real loud, too,” Merry mused, grabbing the change she needed. “Those strong silent types always do.”
Thinking about him coming sent a waterfall of sensations sluicing down Ivy’s body. Shivers brushed her arms, tightening her nipples and tingling between her legs.
Jesus. Shivers, tingles, palpitations. This was bloody ridiculous. Why did…lust have to feel like the freaking flu?
“Are you done there, gorgeous, I need to get in?”
Ivy looked up to find Jamie, one of the other bartenders, standing at her elbow. He’d been flirting with her for the last ten weeks. He was about her age and cute in that blond surfie way. Also chatty and quick with a joke.
He should have been the perfect candidate for cashing in her v-card. She was running out of time after all and, logically, he ticked all the boxes. But her body didn’t want Jamie.
There was no logic to what it wanted.
“Sorry,” she said, shutting the till drawer and stepping away, giving herself a mental shake.
Ignore Dean Bennet. Only two more weeks then she never had to embarrass herself in front of him again. And as much as she didn’t want her adventure to end, she wouldn’t miss feeling so flustered all the time.
“Ivy, I’m dying over here,” Merry called.
“Coming,” Ivy said and dragged her head back into the game.
By the time the bar doors shut at two in the morning, Ivy’s feet ached, her throat felt fuzzy from yelling, and she needed to pee desperately. But there was clean-up to do and many hands made light work.
In half an hour they were done and Ivy slipped out the back with two garbage bags she propped by the rear exit. She’d take them out to the bin in the alley just as soon as she’d been to the loo.
She was back in two minutes, eager to finish up and hit the sack, exhaustion settling in. Insisting that her father let her go to experience a bit of real life for a change before she settled into the newspaper internship he’d lined up for her had been liberating almost a year ago, but Ivy had learned fast that real life was damn hard.
She hadn’t minded. In fact she’d reveled in it. But it was always good to climb into bed after a long shift on her feet.
Ivy’s hand stilled on the bar of the exit door. She turned and smiled at Jamie. “Hey.” It was nice to know that somebody here thought she was pretty even if she was holding two garbage bags and smelled like a brewery.
“Want to hit a club with me?”
Ivy laughed. “Are you crazy? I’m wiped. My bed is calling my name.”
He smiled and stepped closer putting his hand on her hip. “I’m up for that as well.”
Ivy frowned as she backed up. Her butt met the door. “Oh,” she said, suddenly not feeling so good about Jamie.
“Come on,” he cajoled, his surfie swagger in full swing. “I could rub your neck.” He picked up a curl off her shoulder and rubbed it between his fingers as he moved in close. “Or anywhere else you like.”
The hairs on the back of Ivy’s neck stood to attention. There was only one guy around here she wanted rubbing her in bed and it was not Jamie the jerkoff.
“Er…” Ivy looked around. The corridor was deserted. Great. “Thanks for the offer. But I’m really very tired.”
Like Dean, Ivy knew diplomacy often worked best in these kinds of situations. And she was way too tired to have to use that self-defense shit her father had drummed into her over the years.
Jamie wasn’t being overtly threatening—yet.
“Are you sure?” he asked dropping the curl. He lowered his head until he was nuzzling her ear. “I bet you and I can have some real fun together before you leave.”
Ivy pulled her head away from the unwanted caress, her pulse accelerating as adrenaline shot into her system. “Stop it, Jamie,” she said, raising her voice, dropping the garbage bags to push against his chest.
He laughed, resisting her attempts to put space between them, crowding her back farther, her shoulder blades pressed into the door. “Oh come on, baby, don’t be like that I—”
He didn’t get to finish his sentence. The next thing Ivy knew a gurgly squeak filled the air and Jamie was pinned to the opposite wall by his throat, Dean Bennet glowering down at him.
“You heard the lady,” he said, his evenly modulated voice dropping into menacing range. Despite the hammer of Ivy’s heart, interesting things squeezed inside at Dean’s gruffness.
“Hey, I didn’t mean anything by—”
Another squeak as Dean increased the pressure and Jamie’s eyes bulged a little. “Wrong answer, Jamie. What do you think is the right one?”
“Sorry,” Jamie said quickly.
Another subtle increase practically bulged Jamie’s eyes right out of his head. Ivy supposed she should insist that Dean stop before he ruptured something important in Jamie’s throat or an eye popped out, but watching the corded muscles of his arm and the measured way Dean controlled the maneuver was pretty freaking hot.
Just like the rest of him.
“Sorry, Ivy,” Jamie said, his voice a little on the strangled side.
Dean stepped back, releasing the pressure instantly. Jamie doubled over, gasping. “Jesus, man,” he panted, looking up angrily at Dean, his hand clutched to his throat. “You nearly choked me.”
The look of detachment on Dean’s face was shocking. He was in a different zone now. His actions were raw and primitive but his demeanour was utterly clinical. Like a cyborg. Or RoboCop.
Or a soldier. Definitely ex-military.
“Better go while I’m still feeling charitable,” he growled.
Jamie didn’t need to be told twice, lurching upright and stumbling away without a backward glance.
“You okay?” Dean asked turning his attention to her as Jamie disappeared from sight. Ivy blinked at his instant transformation from cyborg to human being. “Did he hurt you?”
Ivy held her breath as his gaze scanned her face and ran over her body as if trying to inventory any injury. It wasn’t anything sexual but her body bloomed to life regardless. For the first time since they’d met he was actually looking at her.
And it was every bit as devastating as she’d imagined.
“I’m fine,” she dismissed, breathing again, her heart pumping now for an entirely different reason. “Will he be okay?”
His lips tightened. “He’ll live.”
Ivy dragged her gaze off the taut press of his lips. Now was not the time to wonder if she could make them melt apart with her tongue. “Well, thank you,” she said. “You really didn’t need to. I know a thing or two about protecting myself, but I appreciate the chivalry.”
He laughed, then, and Ivy almost fell over in shock. She’d never heard him laugh. Hell, she’d barely seen him smile. He really should do it more often. The tight, serious angles disappeared. His face softened, his eyes glowed, the bow of his upper lip became evident.
In an instant he’d gone from untouchable to seriously freaking touchable.
“I’ve never been accused of chivalry before,” he said, amusement tinging his accent.
“Oh? You don’t go round rescuing damsels in distress every day?”
He smiled. He actually smiled. At her. “Thanks to this job I’m a creature of the night.”
Ivy’s brain temporarily short-circuited as he stepped in closer to her. “I’ll get rid of these,” he said, leaning down and picking up the bags at either side of her legs.
“No,” Ivy said, grabbing the bags off him as her brain powered up again. “You’ve done enough for me tonight. I’m not going to let you do my job as well.”
He surrendered them without a fight, pushing on the bar of the exit door, opening it for her. “See,” she said glancing at the play of muscles in his tanned forearm as she passed by him. “Chivalry.”
His low chuckle followed Ivy out into the warm night. Although given how much she was high-beaming right now it might as well have been winter.
Unsavoury odors stewed in ripe abundance as she walked the short distance down the alley to the dumpster and disposed of the garbage. Not that she noticed. She was too busy thinking about Dean’s smile. The way he’d laughed. And looked at her. His crazy-sexy self-deprecation.
Voices from the street end of the alley finally snagged her attention and she glanced toward them. It took her a few seconds to compute what was happening. A man on his knees. Another man standing with a gun pointed at kneeling dude’s head.
By the time Ivy had put all the pieces together the trigger had been pulled and the man on his knees pitched forward. She gasped, too shocked by the brutality to stop herself.
Vaguely she was aware of a noise from behind her, a door banging as the guy with the gun turned and saw her. Ivy’s eyes widened and she gasped again.
She knew him.
And she could tell from his demeanor that he knew her as well.
He raised his gun and pointed it at her and Ivy was momentarily too stunned to even move. It wasn’t until she heard the shot that the messages from her brain finally got through to her muscles.
Hot, searing pain blew her shoulder backward as a hand from behind grabbed her and pulled her down hard on the uneven surface. Her hip landed with a jolt and she cried out as her face crashed into a solid wall of warmth. A spicy-sweet aroma overrode the stink of the alley as she was dragged backward.
Then everything blurred.
This book is a very surprising case of "Which of these things is not like the others?" When compared to titles in the Men Of The Zodiac series.
Please... allow me to clarify things a bit.
Men Of The Zodiac is a series in which a man, embodying characteristics of his particular birth sign, acts out said embodiment within a given scenario. (With the addition of panty-singeing sex and a heart melting 'happily '...of course.)
The Colonel's Daughter reads more like a Special Ops novel, than anything even remotely mystical.
While there is plenty of dark and brooding badassery on the part of leading man Dean/Seth. Such is always the case with any self respecting romance. In fact, every emotion or action that our ex-military white night performs is standard faire for the trope, and is in no way indicative of a particular star sign.
The only real clue...barring that one reads the subheading in the synopsis, is the constellation depicted by his tattoo. But Mr. Man even manages to relate that to his military service....sooo?
Working to further distance this novel from the MOTZ shore, is the panty-singeing sex. Or should I say, the lack of it. Poor Dean/Seth has more justifications for not having sex with Ivy, than there are spots on a ladybug's butt.
1. The fear of her father finding out.
2. The fact that she is a virgin.
3. The fact that they only have a few days together
4. Pick your own reason and insert here.
There we're more needlessly missed opportunities for these two to explore their passion than one can count. Including a favorite stall of YA writers, the old "I can't right now...my dad's on the phone" trick.
I mean, she's 23 and ready, they are so attracted to each other that every dog within a 5 mile radius of them has probably gone into a spontaneous heat, and they are holed up alone in a hotel room...for days.
By the time that these two finally do come together, the sparks don't fly quite as true.
The ending though sweet, seems rushed and forced. This is a book that strangely enough, would have been better as a tryst.