Thrill Me To Death by Roxanne St. Claire
By SMW Staff
A hot bodyguard, a cool billionaire heiress, a dangerous attraction and a killer who hides in plain sight. Only one woman can bring Max Roper to his knees and only one man can keep Cori Peyton from the hands of a deadly killer. And as they close in on that murderer, their high-stakes affair could cost them everything…including their lives.
Not much impressed Lucy Sharpe. But when she told Max Roper his next assignment, and he didn’t so much as blink, her respect for his well-documented control ratcheted up a notch or two.
But then, it was possible he didn’t recognize the name. Perhaps he hadn’t kept track of his former lover. Perhaps he didn’t realize that Corinne Peyton, widowed billionairess, and Cori Cooper, DePaul Law Student, were one in the same.
So Lucy eased an enlarged snapshot from a dossier, placing it so that the light that poured into her library caught the gleam in the subject’s midnight blue eyes and captured the sheen of her long black hair.
“Here’s a photo of Mrs. Peyton,” Lucy said, lifting her gaze to gauge his reaction. “Lovely, isn’t she?”
He barely nodded. Maybe an eyebrow moved a millimeter, but she couldn’t be sure. Anyone would think this was the first time Max Roper had laid eyes on Corinne Peyton. Anyone but Lucy, who made it her business to know everything about every man and woman who’d earned the right to be a Bullet Catcher, her top-notch cadre of bodyguards and security specialists.
“This was taken on the day the Peyton Foundation was launched shortly after the Peyton’s were married. Four years ago.”
“The organization is the largest philanthropic endeavor of the multibillion dollar Peyton Enterprises. Mrs. Peyton was instrumental in creating this foundation with her late husband.” She paused long enough for him to look up from the picture. “The Peyton Foundation provides complete financial support and legal services to the families of fallen law enforcement officers.”
Nothing. No giveaway pulse in his muscle-roped neck. No change in his carved-from-granite features. Max remained stoic and still, as always. A quality that made him an outstanding bodyguard, but one that rarely endeared him to clients who wanted to know what made this giant of a man tick as calmly and consistently as he did.
She leaned her elbows on the table and repeated her earlier statement. “I’m assigning you to protect Corinne Peyton.”
He merely flicked the picture to the side and pulled the rest of the paperwork closer, skimming a clean-cut nail down the key points on the top sheet. He lifted the page and studied a photo of William Peyton, taken on his sixtieth birthday. And another, picturing the mall developer magnate in his Star Island home on the cover of Fortune Magazine.
“As you can see by the date, that article ran last year,” she added. “Just months before Peyton died, at sixty-three years old.”
Again, Lucy paused, waiting for Max to reveal his connection to the widow. But he simply pushed the file aside and leaned back to deliver one seriously disgusted look.
“Miami? In August, Luce? Why not just send me to hell?”
She smiled. “Next time, Alaska. I promise.”
“That’s what you said after Madagascar. Send Jazz and Alex Romero on this. They live there.”
“They’re on assignment in Helsinki.”
He snorted softly. “That lucky bastard.”
“You won’t melt in Miami, Max.” Or would he?
He reopened the folder, as though he couldn’t resist another look at the man with a shock of white hair and a set of black eyebrows. The man who’d dotted the nation with ultra-luxurious shopping complexes and reaped considerable rewards in the process. The man who got everything he wanted out of life…including the woman Max loved.
“So, did you know this guy?” Max asked casually. “Is that how the Bullet Catchers got involved?”
“No. This is a referral from Beckworth Insurance. Mrs. Peyton’s had a situation recently and asked the insurance company for security recommendations. They put her in touch with me.”
“Beckworth?” Max looked up, curious. “Is it a kidnapping threat?”
The question was valid, since the Bullet Catchers routinely worked with Beckworth in areas with high incidences of kidnapping, such as South America. “No, but evidently someone tried to kiss her with the fender of a car while she was shopping. On the surface, this is a standard VIP protection.”
The crease in his forehead deepened at her pointed tone. “And below the surface?”
She leaned her chin onto her knuckles. “I’ve spent most of my adult life as a spy, Max. You know that I know you have a history with this woman.”
“An ancient history.”
She arched one brow. “Ancient enough for you to protect her with your life?”
He met her gaze. “If you ask me to.”
“Ancient enough for you to regain her trust?”
“If I had to.”
“Ancient enough for you to quietly determine whether or not she killed her husband?”
“What?” He blew out the word. “He died of a heart attack. That’s right here on page one of your file.”
“That’s the official report.”
Max waited a beat, his expression asking the obvious question: What was the unofficial report?
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