Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: 5/27/2014
What happens when the president’s daughter and her sexy Secret Service agent find themselves snowbound? A little cabin fever, some serious forbidden attraction, and Various States of Undress…
When Carolina Fulton, daughter of the President of the United States, dumps her cheating fiancé, she knows she needs a break from life in Washington. Spending some quality alone time in her family’s Wyoming cabin seems like a perfect escape-except for the hot Secret Service agent who shadows her every move. Miles away from civilization, Carolina quickly realizes that ignoring the smoky eyes, carved chin, and mile-wide pair of shoulders is going to require more than a little self-control.
Elite agent Jake Baxter knows better than to develop feelings for his clients. After all, he’s not being paid to fantasize about running his fingers through Carolina’s dark hair, kissing her senseless, or waking up next to her petite, curvy body. But as a blizzard rages outside their all-too-cozy cabin, Jake knows he has to put the freeze on this attraction, lest his job-or his heart-is suddenly laid on the line.
“What do we do now?” she asked, knowing it was an invitation. And not caring. The door was locked. The alarm was on. No eyes were prying and no cameras were flashing. Nobody was judging her, and she felt safe. Safe from everything, except herself—but she could handle herself. Being competent was her signature character trait.
“We shouldn’t,” he said.
She leaned forward and slid her fingers down his arms until she clasped his warm hands. “I’m so aware of that fact, it’s painful.” She tipped her head back. “But right now, I don’t care.” Rising up, she loosened her fingers, wrapped her arms around his strong neck and pulled him toward her. “Okay?”
His hands moved to splay around her ribcage. “No. It’s not okay.” Then he lifted her up until her breasts were nestled against his chest. And his mouth descended on hers, sending tendrils of fire racing through her middle. As her eyes slid shut, she had the strangest feeling that she was sinking. And she didn’t want it to stop.
EXCERPT: Chapter One
A year ago, Carolina Fulton didn’t think much about fame.
These days, she could go online, type her name into a search engine and come up with hundreds of hits. She could even buy a plastic bobble head of herself. The thought of that usually made her smile. But not today. That’s because today, after two straight hours of nodding and smiling, her own, very real head felt like it was about to pop off her shoulders.
Some days it sucked to be a daughter of the President of the United States.
Today was one of them.
Planted in a circle of helmet-haired society wives in the East Room of the White House, she tried to tune out the din of voices and the string quartet in a corner of the room as she leaned forward, feigning polite attention. Pain squeezed her temples, and she barely avoided rolling her eyes at the name dropping old bat to her right. Carolina had a bobble headache. From being a bobble head. She had to get out of here.
Smoothing the front of her full-skirted taffeta cocktail dress, she bobbled her head two more times—ouch—and extended her right hand into the circle. She didn’t care who shook it, as long as she could bolt in the next ten seconds.
“Will it be a Rose Garden wedding, dear?” asked a woman wearing a diamond brooch big enough to be used as a coaster. Another woman, the loudest of the bunch, let out an annoying tsk. “Of course it will, Sylvia. Don’t be silly. Who’s designing your gown, Carolina? I have some names for you if you haven’t made up your mind.”
Carolina blinked a couple of times and pasted on a brilliant smile. “Ladies. Roger and I haven’t set a date yet, but you’ll be the first to know.” She winked and let the subdued laughter wash over her. Her left eye twitched. “And I haven’t decided on a veil yet, either. But silk chiffon does sound lovely. Thanks for the tip.”
As she backed away, she fluttered a manicured hand and scanned the room for an empty space. The corner near the grand piano looked promising. She weaved her way through the glittering crowd toward the drapes behind the piano, reached beneath the bow on the waist of her conservative dress and slipped her cell from a side pocket.
Where the hell was Roger? He knew that diplomatic receptions weren’t her cup of tea, so this time Mr. Social had volunteered to stay nearby. Not that she couldn’t take care of herself, but it had been a relief knowing her fiancé would run interference for her, especially since she was exhausted—she’d been going full steam since eight a.m.—a full day of classes sandwiched with a charity luncheon she didn’t even remember—and now this event. Roger was supposed to be her prop tonight.
Oh, God. That sounded bad…not prop. Support. But an hour had passed since he’d vanished.
With a glance behind her, Carolina focused her attention on her phone.
Where r u? she texted.
She stared at the small screen. When the bubble popped up, alerting her that Roger was typing, she exhaled. Good. But then the bubble vanished. She frowned. How typical. Roger Chapman was known for being easily distracted. His lack of focus was the main reason that her dad hadn’t asked him to be Chief of Staff, even though Roger was capable of the job in many other ways. But Patrick Fulton didn’t roll the dice on the people who worked for him…making wise choices was how he’d gotten elected to the highest office in the land.
Secretly, Carolina agreed with her dad, although she’d never admit it to Roger. She admired her dad and followed his example most of the time, especially about making wise decisions.
Agreeing to marry Roger was a rash decision, her conscience whispered.
Shut up, she told it.
Getting married made sense. It would certainly be met with approval, because when her father had been a senator, Roger had been his right hand man. And even though Carolina’s two sisters were the more overtly talented daughters, she’d always been the person Roger had a smile for. The middle child. The agreeable one. The perpetual student. The hard worker. Roger was like that, too.
So when he’d asked her out a year ago, soon after her dad had announced his run for the White House, she’d been thrilled. And when he’d proposed to her at one of the Inaugural balls, it had seemed like a fairy tale. Of course she’d said yes. Since that day two months ago, she’d been caught in the whirlwind of Washington society and wedding chatter had been on the tips of everyone’s tongues. Except hers.
That’s because you don’t love him, whispered her sneaky conscience.
Leave me alone, she shot back.
You think I’m sneaky, but you know Roger is.
Carolina sighed. Yes, she knew he was sneaky. The more time she spent with her fiancé, the less she liked him. He was a chronic workaholic and resuming Chief of Staff duties for the woman who’d filled her dad’s Senate seat, Roger had been more and more evasive about…well, everything. She closed her eyes and swallowed.
“Everything all right, Miss?”
Carolina turned with a ready smile for the butler near her shoulder. “Yes, fine. Thanks. But would you be able to get me an aspirin or something?”
The man nodded. “Of course. Be back in a minute.”
The phone in her hand came to life and Carolina looked down at Roger’s return text: Sorry babe. Be there in a sec.
She shook her head, her fingers flying. This party is driving me nuts. Where r u? I’ll come find u.
Tapping her foot, she waited. A few seconds later, he answered.
No, don’t. Be back up in sec, like I said.
Back up? He’d probably gone down to the China Room. When visiting the White House, he tended to go there when he wanted to make phone calls. Which was often. Carolina’s eyes scanned the doorway. The butler walked through, a tray in hand. She met him halfway, took a glass of water and two aspirin from the tray. “Thanks very much,” she said with a strained smile.
He nodded. “My pleasure.”
Carolina returned the water glass, slipped through the doorway and headed for the staircase at the end of the Grand Hall. She felt like hell and all she wanted was to go back to her apartment in Georgetown and collapse into bed. But first, Roger Chapman needed to be set straight. She was more than sick of him vanishing like the Invisible Man every time she needed him. Gritting her teeth, she grabbed the handrail and placed a too-tight satin shoe on the first step.
A polite cough behind her made her freeze in place. And then give in to the eye roll she’d been craving most of the evening. She sighed and turned to glance back at her newest Secret Service agent.
“We’re in the White House. So I think I’ll be safe walking down the stairs. Could you just let me alone for ten minutes, please?”
“It’s my job.”
Carolina folded her arms and surveyed the man in black. Jason Baxter…or was it Jake? Either way, he looked like most of the other agents—tall and chiseled. This one, though, had amazing green eyes. And a chest harder than Mount Rushmore. She knew, since she’d bumped into it by accident the other day. He was perfectly still under her scrutiny—his eyes betrayed nothing. He was a machine in a pretty package. But that fact hadn’t stopped her from entertaining fantasies about the man. Ones in which he actually smiled. And others in which he did a lot more than just smile.
If you hadn’t been taking photos of him on the sly, you wouldn’t be so painfully aware of him right now.
Carolina’s face felt hot with embarrassment, but almost immediately, she shook it off. Agent Baxter didn’t know she’d taken those photos. He also didn’t know that she’d pulled them up on her laptop a couple of times—well, too many times to count—and indulged in the pure pleasure of just looking at him. As far as he was aware, she just enjoyed photography. It was her hobby—everyone knew that. She’d even talked about it for an interview with Vogue.
Her dad had only been President for two months and here she was, an engaged woman, lusting after a Secret Service agent. God.
“Nice bow tie,” she commented and turned to grab the handrail again.
Jake trotted down the steps, passing her. Near the bottom, he glanced back. “I need to be in front,” he muttered, holding out an arm to halt her progress. Even through his suit sleeve, she could tell that arm was muscular. This guy had been her shadow for two solid weeks, and before that, she was pretty sure he’d been glued to a diplomat. When did he have time to work out?
He’s hot, her conscience whispered.
“Thought I told you to shut up,” she answered. Except this time it was out loud.
Jake raised an eyebrow. “Excuse me?”
Carolina closed her eyes briefly. “Sorry. I’m just really tired. I mean, really. Exhausted.”
“You want to go home?” he asked, even as he stepped across the hall and to the doorway of the China Room, his eagle-eyed gaze darting around.
“Yes. But first I need to speak with my fiancé,” she answered, smoothing her sleek dark hair behind her ears. And it was then that she heard the giggles, followed by familiar annoying chuckles. Roger only chuckled like that when he was trying to wheedle his way into…oh. Oh hell, no!
With narrowed eyes, Carolina crossed the dimly lit hall, intent on murder.
Jake froze in the entry to the China Room and placed his hands on either side of the door frame. Shit. He couldn’t let her in.
“Let me in there,” Carolina demanded in a terse whisper.
“No, ma’am,” he replied, his mind shuffling through several lies he could tell her, one of which she might buy. He came up empty. She was incredibly smart. Not to mention beautiful, but her beauty was none of his business. The only thing he should be concerned with was her safety. Behind him, he heard an exasperated sigh, and then felt her small hands curl around his left arm.
“Why? Is there an imminent threat to my security?” She grunted. “Move this tree trunk out of the way and let me through!”
Another burst of giggles was quickly followed by a moan and Jake winced. This was going to suck. But he couldn’t think of a plausible reason why he shouldn’t step aside. So he did.
“Thank you,” Carolina whispered. She stepped into the middle of the dimly lit room. “Roger? I know you’re in here.”
Jake watched as she twisted her head, looking for her asswipe of a fiancé. Really, for her sake, he was glad she was about to find Roger in a liplock with some skank. Then maybe the charade of her engagement would be over. She deserved better.
Lifting his arm, he muttered into his microphone, “Care Bear secure in China Room. ETA East Room twenty-one hundred hours.”
Carolina turned her head. In the faint backlight spilling from the built in china cabinets on the wall, she looked delicate and vulnerable. At first. Then he noticed a crease between her dark brows and her hands jammed onto her hips. She was anything but vulnerable—especially at this moment. He shifted in the doorway.
“Flip on the lights, Jason,” she commanded. “I need to look at my watch. Something tells me you’ve just given me five minutes down here and I need quite a bit more time than that.” Her chest rose as she filled her lungs. “Roger!”
Jake flipped on the lights. A gasp from the other side of the room was accompanied by more giggles and then rustling as two people emerged from the drapes covering a window. The gasp of course, belonged to Roger and the giggles…Jake raised an eyebrow. Damn. It was a skank. Or at least a skank in training.
“Babe, it’s not what you think,” Roger said, holding up his hands in appeasement. The skank lurched forward and grabbed his arm for support, but he shook off her hand. “She attacked me.”
Jake glanced at her but he couldn’t even remember the name of the very young and very flirty girl who answered phones in the White House communications office. Most of the other agents just referred to her as Trouble. She was drunk; her bra straps were hanging loose around her shoulders and her fake rack sat like a shelf on top of the neckline of her tight dress. He tried not to stare, but how could he not? Why would a woman do that to herself? The girl couldn’t weigh more than a hundred pounds. Why did she need double D boobs?
He tore his gaze away and focused on Carolina. She stood still as a statue, staring. In fact, nobody spoke. The only sound in the room was the hum of the lights and Roger’s pathetic panting. Finally, Carolina stepped forward.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” she said in an even tone, devoid of emotion.
Good girl, Jake thought. Make that arrogant prick squirm. Carolina was so calm. Always composed, and very courteous. Even if she forgot his name most of the time. And even if she took photos of him when she thought he wasn’t looking. He could feel a smile coming on and he rubbed his jaw, blocking it.
“I think it goes without saying that the engagement is off,” Carolina continued in her quiet voice.
Roger, who had been helping stuff Trouble’s breasts back into her dress, dropped his hands as if the well-endowed receptionist was covered in oozing scabs. He scuttled forward. “Carolina. Listen to me. She followed me down here and I was trying to get rid of her,” he said.
Quickly, Jake scanned the hallway behind him and stepped into the room, pulling the door closed. Carolina glanced back, and he saw the tears forming in her eyes. Uh oh. On instinct he took a step toward her, but she shook her head and swiveled back to Roger.
“Frankly, I couldn’t care less. And I’m not interested in listening while you make up a story. I’m too tired.”
“Babe…” Roger straightened his bow tie and stuffed his hands into his tux pockets, rocking back and forth on the balls of his feet. Jake knew the loser was trying to hide an erection. But Roger was so stupid he didn’t realize that all he was doing was mimicking thrusting. Jake noticed, though. Carolina noticed it too. She rolled her eyes. Jake bit back a laugh.
“We’re finished here,” Carolina announced, turning on her heel. Jake nodded at her once and gestured toward the door. “Just take me home,” she whispered, her eyes filling completely. A fat tear plopped on the carpet in front of her and she swiped at her eyes with impatient fingers. At the doorway, she stopped. “No. I’ve changed my mind. Take me to my dad’s office, please.” Her voice was thick.
Another trill of giggles erupted from the corner, followed by a loud ‘Shhhh!’ from Roger. “But you told me she wouldn’t care,” Trouble whispered. Carolina froze, an angry blush spreading across her fair complexion. Uh oh. Before Jake could block her path, she swiveled around and marched across the room. She didn’t stop until she was eye to eye with the skank.
“You’re right. I don’t care. I stopped caring about five minutes ago.” Carolina gave her a brittle smile. “I hope you enjoy him.” Her gaze flicked over Roger’s crotch. “But something tells me it’s doubtful.”
Roger’s weak chin descended, his mouth falling open. “That was a low blow.”
“Literally,” Carolina shot back. She put a placating hand on Roger’s sleeve. “Oh and you’re not welcome at the White House anymore. I’ll tell the guards at the gate on my way out.”
Roger sputtered as he pulled her hand away. “Wait a minute. I told you it’s not what you think.” He blinked as if wounded. “You’re always jumping to conclusions. I’m not sure what to say, Carrie. Where’s the trust? Aren’t you the least bit sorry?”
As Jake watched, Carolina’s soft brown eyes turned hard as stone. She stared at Roger. “Are you seriously hoping that I’ll blame this…this…situation on myself? Go screw yourself.”
Trouble’s eyes went wide. “This is getting too weird. Roger, you said that as long as the ring ends up on her finger, she doesn’t care who you party with. She’s getting some on the side, too. Isn’t she?” Trouble’s mouth dropped open. “Ohmygod, Roger. You’re a liar.”
For a moment, Carolina was still and then to Jake’s horror, she launched herself at Roger, a war cry ripping from her throat. In the blink of an eye, Roger crumpled like a paper cup and Carolina was straddling him, her small hands landing surprisingly accurate slaps on his aristocratic cheekbones.
“Bastard!” she screeched. “How dare you?” A sob caught in her throat, and Jake reached out, caught her around the waist and hauled her upright. Beneath his arm, her small breasts pillowed as she leaned forward. He shoved the awareness of their warmth from his mind and pulled her back a couple of steps.
“Let me go, Jason! I’m not finished.”
Jake turned her body around and muttered into his sleeve. “Care Bear on the move. Oval Office permission requested.” She didn’t resist when he opened the door and walked through. Footsteps sounded at the end of the hallway, and Carolina’s tear-streaked face snapped up in alarm. Approaching, head down, cell phone to ear, was the White House Deputy Communications Director.
“Get me out of here,” Carolina whispered, ducking her head into his shoulder.
Shit! Jake’s jaw clamped tight. How the hell had he let this happen? Two weeks he’d been in the inner circle and screwing up was not an option. But he clearly had done just that. He shouldn’t have let her jump on top of Roger. The asshole might have hit her back.
Visions of being bumped back to a desk job in a remote corner of rural Oklahoma ran through his mind. No. The youngest agent ever to make First Family detail was not going lose that position right after it had begun. He was only thirty years old and he did not need for his career to be cut short. Especially not because of Roger Chapman. He needed to fix this.
“Good evening, sir,” Jake began, turning Carolina to the side. Her shoulders were shaking and he gave them a light squeeze.
“Hardly.” The bald man stopped walking and held his phone to his chest. “What’s wrong?”
“We have a situation, sir,” Jake answered. Carolina’s arm snaked around his middle and his stomach tightened. He cleared his throat. “A member of your staff and Mr. Chapman were just discovered together and it wasn’t a…business meeting.”
The Deputy Chief closed his eyes briefly. “Lord.” He stepped around Jake and poked his head into the China Room. “Young lady. My office. Ten minutes.” He pointed a finger at Roger. “And you. Stay here.” Nodding at Jake, he continued down the hall, muttering into the phone.
After the echo of the footsteps diminished, Carolina raised her head and swiped at her cheeks. She let out a deep breath. “Thanks.” Her soft lips quirked up in a smile. “Is there a bathroom down here? My dad hasn’t been President long enough for me to have explored the whole house.”
Jake nodded. He glanced back into the room once more, noting Roger sitting on the floor like a baby, cradling his cheeks in his palms. Asswipe. He deserved a trip to the dentist, courtesy of Jake. Trouble leaned against the wall, deflated. Except for her chest. He almost felt sorry for her, but any woman with the smarts to get a job in the White House should know better. She was a fool, but Roger was worse. He was a complete idiot.
A wry voice from the command center spoke into Jake’s earpiece. “Chapman’s presence has been requested by POTUS.”
“Copy that,” Jake muttered into his sleeve. Pointing a finger at Roger, he said, “Oval Office. Try not to shit your pants, sir.” Then he shut the door.
Carolina stood there, her eyes wide. “That was… remarkable, Jason.”
He gestured down the hall. “This way.” He couldn’t help but smile, though, and when he felt her gaze on his face, he glanced down. “It did feel good. But I shouldn’t have.”
She sighed. “I’ve been thinking that very thought since the minute you intervened. I hope you know that you weren’t at fault back there. A mac truck couldn’t have kept me from launching myself at Roger.”
Jake could have, but he didn’t say anything. Truthfully, he shouldn’t have let her into the room in the first place. But how could he have known that flirty little Trouble would be such an outrageous slut? Or that Carolina would bitch-slap her fiancé and call him a bastard? Still, according to his training, he was supposed to be ready for anything. Even that. He glanced down at Carolina with mixed admiration and concern. She deserved his complete, professional protection. And unless the job was yanked away from him, he fully intended to continue guarding her with his life.
When they reached the bathroom, she let go of his arm. “Thanks.”
“You’re welcome, Miss Fulton.” He felt himself smiling again and stilled his face. “It’s my pleasure.”
“No need to call me Miss Fulton,” she said, “Please call me Carolina. I mean, I call you Jason. It’s only fair.”
He coughed. “Thank you, uh, Carolina. No need to call me Jason, though.” The smile returned to his lips and this time he let it stay. “Since my name is Jake.”
After spending years in professional theater as a costume designer, Laura Simcox eased out of the hectic whirlwind of opening nights and settled in a comfy desk chair to write romance. She believes that life is too short not to appreciate heartwarming, quirky humor and her novels are lighthearted journeys into the happily-ever-after. She lives in North Carolina with her true love and adorable little son.
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