Series: Girls' Night Trilogy # 3
She’s all wrong for him, but wrong has never felt so right.
Jessica “Baby” Campbell is desperate.
After being mugged a year ago, fear has taken over her life. Now a stalker is sending her death threats and she’ll do anything to feel safe again. Even turn to the man who rejected her so soundly.
Former Navy SEAL Joe Catrell wants nothing to do with the pint sized beauty. She’s the spitting image of the woman who betrayed him and crushed his heart into dust. Yet, he can’t deny himself, especially when Baby begs for his help.
She’s all wrong for him, but wrong has never felt so right.
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Accolades & Reviews
“Man, I just want to jump this guy’s bones!!!!” ~ Karen
“I love Selena Blake’s books and this one was no exception. I recommend this book to everyone. It’s a great example of life, romance and little bit sizzle.” ~ Lady Trog
“Have a good evnin’, Miss Campbell,” Walter, the security officer for Morgan, Tate and Associates, called.
Baby shot the aging man a smile and wished him the same. He was such a sweetie. Too bad she couldn’t get him to call her by her name.
She glanced at the trendy watch on her wrist and calculated how much time she had before the girls arrived at her townhouse for their weekly get-together. She needed to stop by the store for the wine. Knowing she’d be pressed for time she’d reviewed the wine book last night. They’d been on a red kick lately so she’d decided to serve—
Her mental planning screeched to a halt as she rounded the driver’s side of her car and saw the ugly word painted in florescent orange across the side of her car. A chill went up her spine and the hair on the back of her neck stood on end. Fear and violation swept through in equal measures, but anger topped them both.
“No. No-no-no-no-no!” She rushed to Little Red’s side and swiped at the paint. It smeared.
It was fresh.
Her heart tripped a beat as panic flared through her. On full alert, she glanced around and then raced back to the security booth, calling Walter’s name the whole way. He met her just outside the door.
“Someone,” she paused to catch her breath, not because she was out of shape but because she scared easily. Stupid nerves. “Someone sprayed graffiti on my car.”
Only this wasn’t graffiti. She knew that. It was connected with the letters. The threats.
“I’ll have a look, Miss,” Walter said and started in the direction of her car.
“Let’s call the police first,” she prompted. He stared at her for a moment and nodded.
She stepped into the booth behind him and turned to face the door. The underground parking garage had always given her the willies.
She heard him speaking to someone but barely registered the words. The threats bombarded her like a cheesy horror flick.
She gasped for breath again, fighting a panic attack and reached for her phone. She’d ignored the threats long enough. This wasn’t just an irritated client or opposing council.
Whoever had done this had come to her work. They’d painted an ugly word on Little Red.
She scrolled down her list of contacts until she came to the name of the one man she knew would make her feel safe. He was also the last man who’d want to hear from her right now.
“Catrell,” the deep voice answered. It washed through her, delighting every nerve ending as it instantly calmed her fears.
“Joe, I need you.”
He let out a curse and she wasn’t surprised. She’d come on to him several times in the last six months. He’d shot her down just as often but it didn’t matter. He was always on her mind and that didn’t seem to be changing any time soon. She’d wanted him from the moment they’d met.
What she wanted right now was to not be scared and shivery.
“That came out wrong,” she stammered, her anxiety clawing up her neck again. “Somebody spray painted an obscenity on my car.”
Something in her voice must have gotten through to him. This wasn’t a come on or a social call.
“I-you know I wouldn’t bother you but the police can’t do anything based on the letters and—” she rushed on only to be cut off.
“Where are you?”
“Work. In the parking garage.”
“Go to the coffee shop across Spring Street and wait for me.”
His words washed over her like a soothing balm. He was coming. He’d make her feel safe again.
It didn’t surprise her that he knew where she worked. As the head of security for her best friend’s husband, Joe made it his mission to make sure JJ and Trevor were safe. He would have investigated all of her friends when JJ and Trevor had gotten together last year.
A full body sigh left her lips in a rush. She had no doubt he could get to the bottom of this. And when he found out who was behind the threats she’d skewer their ass in the court of law.
“Walter’s on the phone with the police,” she said, wanting him to know that she wasn’t as defenseless as she felt.
“Just do it, Baby. You’ll be safe in a crowd.”
Joe’s idea of her being safe in a crowd seemed reasonable and the coffee shop was certainly crowded enough. Almost every chair in the place was taken and she’d squeezed herself in between a Georgia Tech student and a Mac fanatic.
As she did every morning, she ordered an espresso but this afternoon the caffeine increased her jitters tenfold. She alternated between watching the minute hand on her watch and the front door which faced the mouth of the scary parking deck beneath her office building.
She’d seen a police cruiser arrive and expected Walter to summon her at any moment. But her phone remained silent and the hands on her watch seemed to crawl backward rather than forward.
Baby knew better than to wrack her brain for the person behind the threats. She’d dealt with some unsavory folks during her early career. Now that she was in a private firm, working her way up, the players were different but the stakes were even higher.
Thinking of everyone who might possibly have it in for her was a scary proposition. She was good at her job. It’d probably be a long list.
So she wouldn’t think of it. She’d think of wine and flowers and her best friend’s wedding just a few short weeks away. Maybe she could wrangle Joe into a dance since they were both in the wedding party.
She smiled at the thought and suddenly her evening wasn’t so bad.
It was a long shot of course. For some reason he didn’t like her much. As far as she knew, she’d never run over his cat or sued his grandma.
Oh gosh. Had she sued his grandma?
Her stomach tied itself into a dozen different types of knots.
She glanced up into the steely gray eyes that haunted her most nights. Bolting out of her seat she threw herself into his arms as she breathed his name. In the background she heard her empty espresso cup skitter across the table and crash to the floor.
His hands gripped her upper arms and disengaged her as if she was a pesky cocklebur. She cringed down at the shattered cup and the poor barista rushing to clean it up.
Reorganizing her bags, Baby apologized profusely and pulled a twenty out of her purse. Joe blocked her way so she couldn’t help clean up the mess so she apologized again and slipped the bill to the woman.
“You okay?” he asked, motioning for her to precede him.
“I didn’t sue your grandma did I?” She asked as soon as they were on the sidewalk.
His dark brows inched up his forehead almost comically. “What?”
“I’ve been wracking my brain for a reason you don’t like me. And since I’ve never run over a cat or dog, I know that I didn’t squish your furry best friend. So I thought maybe I took your dear old grandma to the cleaners.”
He sighed and ushered her across the street.
“I don’t have a grandmother for you to sue and I’ve never had a pet.”
“Oh. Good.” She cataloged those two pieces of information. It was more than she’d ever gotten out of him before. And though she was pleased with the information, after all, those were two pretty good reasons to hate her, she was also sad.
He didn’t have a grandmother? Had he ever known the warmth of maternal love and fresh out of the oven cookies? And why hadn’t he ever had a pet?
She blew out another sigh, tried to steady her nerves and told herself that Joe and his past didn’t matter right now.
They made their way to her car and she tried not to shiver when she saw the paint. She loved that car. It’d been her first new car, a present to herself when she’d started with Morgan, Tate and Associates. Little Red had been good to her too. No breakdowns, no loose timing belts, no flat tires.
To see her violated in such a way got Baby’s hackles up. Getting mad was preferable to being scared so she rolled with it, thinking of every mean name she could for the pond scum who’d done this.
The police were still there and Walter introduced her. Joe introduced himself and she admired the smooth way he handled both himself and the situation. He was right there with her, listening as she answered the officers’ questions.
Always close, always observant, no wonder JJ and Trevor relied on him. She wasn’t sure how long Joe had been a bodyguard, but he’d been working for Trevor for years, even back when he’d been a star player for the New York Wolves.
And lately, with another stalker disrupting their lives, Joe had been keeping a watchful eye on JJ as well. Baby would never forget the way Joe’d saved her and her three best friends last month.
Their weekly get together had turned terrifying when the power had gone out at Gretchen Mascoe’s house. The psycho had planned to kill JJ. Something about saving Trevor but who knew what went on in the minds of some people. Luckily, Joe had been there. That’s when her attraction had turned inward, to like and appreciation.
She noticed the way the cops eyed him. Tall, broad and obviously fit, Joe Catrell was a fine specimen of a man. Lethal looking with haunted eyes and dark hair that always had a roguish wave to it no matter how short he kept it.
By the time the officers wrapped up their report, she could tell they respected him too.
As the two men left, Walter apologized again. Even though she hated the damp, oily smelling garage she knew Walter felt like he’d let her down so she took the time to reassure him that he hadn’t. She’d parked around the corner from the security booth; he couldn’t have seen what was happening.
Nevertheless he vowed to double his rounds and would insist the other guards do the same. Baby didn’t have the heart to tell him that she’d be looking into a parking lot on the surface. No more creepy dungeonesque parking garage for her. Besides, with all the chocolate she’d been consuming lately to calm her nerves, she needed the extra walk each day.
“I know a guy who can fix that,” Joe said, jutting his chin in the direction of her car.
“Really? I hope so. Little Red had such a pretty paint job before this.”
Hands on his hips he glanced down at her. Way down. There was almost a foot of difference in their height, she supposed.
“You named your car?”
“Of course.” Didn’t everyone?
“Come on. I’ll have one of my guys come get it and take it to the shop. I should probably check out your townhouse.”
Even though he cupped her elbow as he escorted her back out to the street she got the impression he was touching her the least he possibly could while still being a gentleman.
“You don’t have to sound so excited about it,” she said sarcastically, never so thankful to see Spring St.
He stopped, let go of her elbow and held his hand out between them in karate chop fashion. “Let’s get one thing straight. I’m helping you out because of your friendship with JJ. Not so you can throw yourself at me. Nothing’s going to happen between us, got it?”
“You’re helping me because of JJ, got it,” she said in her sassiest tone. One succinct nod of her head drove home her understanding but she wasn’t quite sure she really did. And as she stared up into those cool, gray eyes, bracketed by frown crinkles, she wondered why she felt like she’d been stabbed in the stomach.
He took a deep breath and she saw the charcoal colored t-shirt stretch over his chest. Was he really counting to ten? It looked like he was counting to ten in his head. A few seconds later he nodded.
A light bulb went on in her mind.
“You’re helping me because you’re scared of JJ,” she said with a smile.
“A little,” he admitted grimly. “Come on.”
He escorted her a block down the street, touching her as little as possible, and into a small, pay lot. He opened the passenger door of a dark Land Rover and offered her a hand. She’d never been one to get too hung up on how a gentleman was supposed to act because let’s face it she never kept a man around for more than a night or two.
But feeling his skin against hers, noting his strength…an awareness she’d never felt before traveled up her arm, through her nervous system and settled deep down inside.
Baby couldn’t stop grinning as he climbed behind the wheel next to her. Though she hadn’t known Joe too long, she knew that there wasn’t much that scared him so the idea of JJ laying down the law, it was all she could do to hold in her giggle. And giggling was much preferred to the alternative — letting all her stress go via her tear ducts.
The drive to her townhouse was short and quiet. After all the times he’d escorted JJ for their weekly Girls’ Night, he obviously didn’t need directions, which she found rather hot.
Joe didn’t fill up the air with pointless chatter, which she appreciated. And he didn’t insist everything was going to be all right. Her smile faltered.
His closeness would have to be a reassurance of sorts. Pulling to the curb in front of her little porch, he put the vehicle in park and looked around. She knew why and she shivered. Someone was watching her; that someone knew what kind of car she drove and where she parked and—
He exited before she could start to hyperventilate and she focused on his brooding good looks as he circled the hood. Wrenching open the door, he offered her a hand.
As she slid her hand into his and his grip tightened she felt a tremble, indescribable and yet so very potent, travel through her. Every nerve ending perked up and her eyes swerved to his. His eyes were wide and his frown deepened. So he felt it too…
After helping her from the Land Rover, he let her go abruptly.
He escorted her to her door and held out his hand. “Keys.”
She lifted her right brow in her trademark who-do-you-think-you-are-mister way. It had flattened plenty of opposing council members and even more handsy bar-goers. But she handed him her key chain. A quick thrust of the key into the lock, a flick of the wrist and they were inside. No missed attempts, no fumbling for Joe, just economy of movement.
He ushered her into the entryway and locked the door.
“Stay here while I look around.” He paused to give her a hard look. “Think you can handle that?”
“Is it my hair?” She asked, still grasping for a reason he thought so little of her.
“What the hell does your hair have to do with anything?”
“Well, I didn’t run over your pet. I didn’t sue your grandma. Maybe you just don’t like blondes.”
“I like blondes.”
“You just don’t like me. So noted. Go have a look around. You’d be surprised what I can,” she let her tone drop seductively, “handle.”
He shook his head as he turned away. Gracious that man needed to loosen up. If they were both wound so tight, one of them was bound to rupture something.