He was sent to guard her body . . . he didnâ€™t expect her to steal his heart.
Devoted to Love, an all-new sexy romantic suspense standalone from New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Shayla Black is available now!
Her sisterâ€™s wedding was hardly the place to find a hook up, but after one look at friend-of-the-groom and special operative Josiah Grant, small-town Texas beauty Magnolia West immediately fell in lust. After a stunningly sensual night together, Maggie is prepared for the two of them to go their separate ways. After all, sheâ€™s not a happily-ever-after kind of girl. But Josiahâ€”and dangerâ€”change her plans.
Josiah isnâ€™t looking for loveâ€¦but Maggie rouses his body and stirs his heart like no other woman. Sheâ€™s got a rocky romantic past, and a smart man would steer clear. But when the murder quotient in Kendall County rises and all signs point to a mysterious group nearby who have been harassing Maggieâ€™s family, he canâ€™t leave her unprotectedâ€”especially when he realizes heâ€™s fallen hard for her.
As tension mounts and the menace closes in, Josiah will do anything to prove to Maggie that their love is realâ€¦but can they stay alive long enough to share it?
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Maggie was shocked to feel her hand tremble when she put her fingers in Josiah Grantâ€™s massive palm. Heâ€™d been more than nice to look at, and sheâ€™d already entertained more than one fantasy about how hot he might look out of that sharp charcoal-gray suit. But now that she was actually going to touch him, her brain felt in eminent danger of short-circuiting. How the devil would she manage if he actually kissed her? Peeled off her clothes? Thrust his hard cockâ€”which should be large, given the size of his handsâ€”inside her?
Sheâ€™d combust on the spot.
â€œSure,â€ she managed to murmur while seeming somewhere between cool and detached. It was her signature move.
As they reached the dance floor, the party tune faded away, replaced by Ed Sheeran crooning that heâ€™d love the woman in his arms until he was seventy. As Josiah pulled her close and began to sway to the slow beat, she peered up at him. Her lashes fluttered, along with her heart. She sucked in a breath. God, she had to stop being such a nervous idiot. He was a man. She was a woman. This would probably be nothing more than a fling sheâ€™d enjoy the hell out of.
But looking into his eyes, she wasnâ€™t so sure. They werenâ€™t blue or green or brown or even hazel. They were more unusual. They were a glinting gray with a thick fringe of lashes against tanned skin. That gaze, along with the buzz of his brown hair, made him look somewhere between exotic and dangerous. And he was staring right at her, looking entirely serious.
Mercy, what was it about this man?
He swallowed like maybe she got to him, too.
â€œSo . . .â€ She searched for a conversational topic to cut her nerves.
â€œSo . . .â€ He smirked in return.
â€œYou actually can dance. Iâ€™m impressed.â€
He let loose a laugh. â€œSee? Iâ€™m a lot of things, but a liar isnâ€™t one of them.â€
Josiah glided them around the floor effortlessly, turning her under his arm, reeling her in closer, then settling his hot fingertips in the middle of her bare back before he caressed his way down her spine and placed his palm close to her ass.
Lord, he felt good. Maggie tried not to imagine how his fingers would feel skimming her whole body with that soft, unhurried stroke. â€œTell me . . . Were you in the service, like Cutter?â€
Josiah shook his head. â€œCIA.â€
Wow. â€œThat sounds dangerous.â€
â€œThe mortality rate was higher than, say, for an accountant.â€
â€œWhy do I get the feeling thatâ€™s an understatement?â€
He simply shrugged. Okay, he didnâ€™t want to talk about it. Or couldnâ€™t. She respected that.
â€œHow long have you worked for EM Security?â€
â€œAbout a year. I signed on because I wanted to learn from the best. Then a few months later, Caleb Edgington retired. Thankfully, his sons have proven anything but amateur. What about you?â€
Since heâ€™d done important things like save the world, he would laugh a million times at what sheâ€™d chosen to do with her life. At least heâ€™d never guess. It wasnâ€™t as if a guy like him would ever read an Azalea North novel. In fact, no one had figured her secret out yet, not even her sister.
â€œIâ€™m . . . on hold right now. Shealyn has this big life to lead, and now sheâ€™s married. My grandparents are needing more help as they get older. Papa fell last week. Thankfully, he wasnâ€™t hurt, but Granna canâ€™t lift him. I barely can. And she canâ€™t remember to take her medicine half the time. Theyâ€™re little issues, at least right now. But theyâ€™re going to require more care in the coming years.â€
â€œWhat about your mom? Can she help?â€
Maggie bit back something pointless he wouldnâ€™t understand and sheâ€™d probably regret. â€œShe lives in Costa Rica with her husband and my ten-year-old half brother. Up until the last few months, she really hasnâ€™t been in my life. Weâ€™re, um . . . getting to know each other.â€
â€œYou didnâ€™t grow up with her?â€
She shook her head. â€œLong story.â€
Hopefully, heâ€™d read between the lines. In her book, it was a closed subject. She still wasnâ€™t entirely sure how she felt about her mom. A few conversations didnâ€™t erase a whole childhood of resentment, but Maggie wasnâ€™t the sort to hold on to hate. And it wasnâ€™t as if her youth in Comfort had been terrible.
â€œWhat about your parents?â€ she said to fill what could become an awkward silence.
â€œLong story, as well.â€
In other words, he had secrets heâ€™d rather keep, too. Fine by her.
The silence sheâ€™d been trying to avoid fell between them. Surprisingly, it wasnâ€™t awkward at all. But it was tight, full of awareness. She could feel herself yearning to be closer to him. But what blindsided her was his desire for her. It hung so thick in the air it was almost tangible. Like a blanket, it wrapped around her, warmed her from the January chill that blew in under the tent. It left her no doubt what he thought or wanted.
The song ended. Neither one of them moved, simply stared. Those wicked fingertips of his prowled their way up her bare back again, making her shiver, before gliding down in a barely there caress.
â€œHow much longer do you have to stay at the reception?â€
Half dazed, she scanned the room. Her sister was wrapped in her husbandâ€™s arms on the opposite corner of the dance floor. Granna and Papa had already retired. Brea, bless her, had finally managed to calm her stomach enough to enjoy the festivities. The rest of the guests had either left or kicked off their shoes, started their third drink, and gotten ready to party.
â€œNot another minute. Are you planning to take me to bed?â€
He cupped her cheek, looking like he wanted to kiss her. Instead, he backed away, teeth gritted in restraintâ€”for now. She had a feeling that moderation wouldnâ€™t last.
Josiah took her hand. â€œYes, I am.â€
Shayla Black is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than sixty novels. For nearly twenty years, sheâ€™s written contemporary, erotic, paranormal, and historical romances via traditional, independent, foreign, and audio publishers. Her books have sold millions of copies and been published in a dozen languages.
Raised an only child, Shayla occupied herself with lots of daydreaming, much to the chagrin of her teachers. In college, she found her love for reading and realized that she could have a career publishing the stories spinning in her imagination. Though she graduated with a degree in Marketing/Advertising and embarked on a stint in corporate America to pay the bills, her heart has always been with her characters. Sheâ€™s thrilled that sheâ€™s been living her dream as a full-time author for the past eight years.
Shayla currently lives in North Texas with her wonderfully supportive husband, her daughter, and two spoiled tabbies. In her â€œfreeâ€ time, she enjoys reality TV, reading, and listening to an eclectic blend of music.
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