Losing Control

By: Nina Croft

PROLOGUE


Kim cracked open the door an inch. The outer office was in darkness.

Good.

Her intel was correct. The CEO of Knight Securities had left for the evening. And about time—it was close to midnight. She slipped through the gap, pulled the door closed behind her, then stood, her back resting against the wood as she waited for her racing pulse to slow.

Without turning on the light, she crossed the room to the door opposite. This one wouldn’t be so easy. A PIN code, as well as a more conventional lock, protected the inner sanctum of her boss.

From the bag at her waist, she pulled a small bottle of talc and puffed a fine cloud over the keypad. The white powder clung to four numbers. So far, so good. Now she just needed the correct sequence, but looking at those numbers… She knew exactly what the order would be.

She entered the PIN and grinned as the light turned from red to green. Take that, Mr. High-and-Mighty.

The next bit was the trickiest.

Kneeling on the floor, she withdrew the pick and tension wrench from her kit. Her hand shook slightly as she slid them both into the lock, and then she waited for a minute, breathing slowly until she was ready to go on. She leaned in close as she manipulated the tools.

Finally, after what seemed an eternity, she heard the small click as the first pin fell into place. Almost there. A few seconds more and the wrench turned cleanly.

Yay—she was in. One more security element to breach and she’d have that promotion in the bag. She’d worked as an operative for nearly four years now, investigating low-level threats and putting together security systems for the rich and famous, but she was ready to take her career to the next level: gun-toting, badass bodyguard.

Her best-friend-slash-boss had set the bar for her promotion pretty low when she’d told him she wanted to carry a gun. Or so she’d thought, right up until the first time she’d tried to break into his safe. Now on her fifth attempt in as many months, she was more determined than ever to outwit the infuriating man once and for all.

As she pushed open the door to his office, she slid the goggles down over her eyes. Instantly the world changed. Beams of red light crisscrossed the room, separating her from the goal: the safe hidden inside the cabinet behind the desk.

The first beam was a mere foot above the ground and she easily stepped over it, then ducked under the second. The third was tricky, and she hesitated. Over or under? She lifted her foot, stretched her leg—

“Looking for something?”

She jumped as the deep male voice skittered along her spine, then lost her balance and crashed to the floor. Alarms jangled, lights flashed. Chaos reigned.

“Shit,” she cursed.

Kim lay on her back and gritted her teeth until everything went quiet, the flashing lights stopped, and the main overhead light came on. Then she pushed the goggles from her eyes and sat up.

Jake Knight lounged in the open doorway, arms folded across his chest. Dressed all in black, he looked lean, mean, and vaguely menacing. The image spoiled only by the mocking smile on his handsome face.

She waggled her fingers at him. “Hi there, boss. Why aren’t you at home?” Where he was supposed to be.

His lips twitched. “I had a feeling something…urgent was going down in my office.”

“Nope. Only little old me.” What had given her away? The problem was, Jake knew her too well. He probably hadn’t bought it when she’d offered to stay late to take a client interview so he could get an early night. “By the way,” she said, “cute move using my birthday as the PIN code.”

“I like to give you a fighting chance.”

She rolled her eyes.

He strolled across the room and came to a halt a foot away, hands thrust in his pockets, that lazy smile still curving his lips.

Yeah, she was so funny. And she’d failed.

Again.

Crap. At this rate, she’d never get her promotion.

“So,” Jake said. “What do we do with you?”

“Er…nothing?”

“Don’t you think breaking into my office deserves a little…retribution?”

Kim scrambled to her feet and brushed herself off. “I’d like to see you try.”

“You think I couldn’t take you?”

She tipped her chin up. “I could kick your ass.”

Probably a lie. Okay, definitely a lie. She was good, but she was also only five foot nine and Jake had six inches on her. Plus, he was twice as broad at the shoulder. However hard she trained, she could never match that. All the same, his smug expression was starting to piss her off.

Without giving herself a chance to think this was a really bad idea, she whirled around and kicked out, but Jake caught her boot before she could connect with an ease that made her curse, leaving her balancing on one foot.

He stepped forward, his long fingers still wrapped around her ankle. Kim had no choice but to hop backward until she hit the wall behind her. “Let me go.”

“Say please and I might.”

“Piss off.”

He studied her for a moment and seemed about to say something, then shrugged and released her.

As soon as she was free, she kicked out again, this time trying to swipe his legs from under him. He sidestepped, then moved in close, his hands braced on the wall on either side of her head, caging her in. Her lungs filled with the scent of him—warm man and spicy citrus.

“Yield,” he ordered.

“No fucking way.”

He urged her back against the wall, moving his body in hard against hers until his chest pressed against her breasts.

A tingle ran through her, settling low in her belly.

Ugh!

That was so not right—this was Jake.

Kim hadn’t thought much about sex in the four years since her divorce, and she really didn’t need to start thinking about it now. And certainly not with Jake.

He was close enough that she could see the faint shadow of stubble darkening his jawline, the midnight blue of his eyes behind the thick fringe of lashes daring her to push him further.

The tingle became a heat that spread slowly out from her center.

What the hell was going on?

Jake lowered his head and his warm breath brushed her cheek. Her own breath sounded ragged in her ears and adrenaline surged through her system.

“Yield,” he said again, so close now she could feel the word against her skin.

She swallowed hard. “Okay, okay. I yield.”

She hated to give in, but what choice did she have? Because for one surreal moment there, she’d been convinced Jake was about to kiss her.

And kissing Jake was not an option.





Chapter One


Thursday night was movie night at Jake’s penthouse apartment and had been for most of the four years she’d known him. Kim didn’t think movies had featured much in Jake’s life before then—he usually didn’t sit still long enough, so she liked to believe she’d brought a little culture into his world.

Well, as much “culture” as one could attribute to a Terminator movie. Jake was too serious and needed someone to get him to relax and just enjoy doing nothing.

That was her job, and she was glad for a chance to get back on a normal footing with him since her foiled break-in attempt last week. She’d managed to convince herself that the almost-kiss had been a figment of her overactive imagination.

Of course, Jake wouldn’t kiss her—why would he?

All the same, things had been a little weird. And if she’d just heard him correctly, their relationship was still far from normal.

“You expect me to wear a what?” She’d been admiring the view from the floor-to-ceiling windows—the whole of London spread out below her. Now, she spun to face him. “Are you serious?”

He looked serious. But you never could tell with Jake—he’d perfected the art of deadpan long ago.

Lounging back in his huge black leather sofa, long legs stretched out in front of him, he returned her scrutiny, his dark-blue eyes examining her in minute detail. Kim shifted from foot to foot, never quite comfortable with the full force of his concentration focused on her.

Jake caught the movement and quirked his lips in obvious amusement. She hated that.

“Oh, yeah,” he drawled. “I’m deadly serious. The job came in last thing today. It’s a favor for a friend, and there were no other female operatives available.”

“Well, thank you for making me feel like a last resort. And where exactly do you expect me to get a dress?”

He gave an exaggerated sigh. “I don’t suppose there’s much point in suggesting your wardrobe?”

Kim raised an eyebrow; the question wasn’t even worthy of an answer.

“I thought not. That being the case, a dress shop would be the obvious choice. Don’t worry.” He held up a hand to preempt her next argument. “You can put it on the expense account. I don’t expect you to purchase such a superfluous item out of your own pocket.” He gave her another long look. “The assignment is security detail at a fashion party. I want you to blend in. So absolutely nothing in camouflage or khaki.”

Kim plucked at the cotton of her khaki combat pants. She thought they were pretty nifty, and teamed with Doc Martens and a black T-shirt, her outfit was both comfortable and durable. However, she had to agree that an element of glamour was missing.

From Jake’s expression, he thought so as well. “Actually,” he continued, “it’s probably best if I come shopping with you.”

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