He shrugged, but the motion looked strained.

“My mother didn’t stay with any of her men very long. Over the years she’d show up for a few days with another new loser in tow. For the most part they were all nasty bastards. The year I turned sixteen, I broke her current boyfriend’s jaw and she finally stopped coming around.”

A gasp escaped. “Why?”

“Guy tried to touch my sister.”

She bit back another gasp. “I hope you broke more than his jaw then.”

Adam’s lips tugged slightly at the corners. “I never took you for the violent type.”

“If my math is correct, your sister was nine.”

He nodded and his jaw clenched again. “So that’s it about my crappy childhood. Your turn.”

She wrapped her arms around herself. “There’s not much to tell. When I was fourteen I was kidnapped and held for ransom. I almost died, but didn’t. End of story.” There was a lot more to the story than that, but she didn’t feel like divulging all of it at the moment. She ignored her noisy conscience. He’d opened up to her but she was too much of a chicken.

Instead of getting annoyed with her, he reached out and cupped her cheek. Then his hand moved lower until his thumb rubbed the tiny scar along the side of her neck. “Is that was this is from?”

“I can’t believe you even noticed it.” Thanks to literally the best surgeons in the world and over a decade, the scar was almost invisible.

“I notice everything about you,” he murmured before leaning forward and capturing her mouth with his.

The kiss was sensual, yet somehow chaste. He tugged on her bottom lip playfully before pulling away. Even after the brief touch, his voice was ragged when he spoke. “Come on. I want to get you inside. We’re sitting ducks out here.”

After gathering her purse and what was left of her wits, she walked back to her place with Adam.

Once they were safely behind locked doors, he checked her entire apartment.

When he disappeared into her bedroom again, she assumed he was double checking everything so she started a pot of tea and put a bag of popcorn into the microwave. All she wanted to do was to curl up on the couch and watch a movie.

She heard the bedroom door open as she was pulling out the bag of popcorn. “Do you want some popcorn?” she called out.

Adam walked into the kitchen wearing a T- shirt, running shorts and tennis shoes.

Izzy frowned at him. “What are you doing?”

He held out the gun, which she simply stared at. Weapons didn’t scare her necessarily, but touching them always left butterflies in her stomach. And not in a good way.

“I’m going down to your gym, but I can’t go if you’re not protected.”

Sighing, she took the hunk of metal and plastic and laid it on the counter next to her. “Fine. Go.”

In all reality, she shouldn’t be annoyed that he needed a break, but a tiny part of her was. After the day she’d had, she just wanted to cuddle up on the couch with Adam and not think about the outside world.

As if he read her thoughts, he tugged her by the hips until there wasn’t an inch of space between them. “Izzy, I’ll only be gone an hour. I just need to burn off some steam, okay?”

Despite her annoyance, she felt herself smiling.


“I’m taking your extra set of keys. Don’t open the door for anyone but me. Promise?”

She nodded.

He shook his head and took a step back. “I want to hear the words.”

“I promise.”

As soon as he’d gone and she’d locked the door behind him, she put in a movie and collapsed on the couch. She hadn’t thought about the kidnapping in so long and now the memories were pounding inside her head. Even the previews couldn’t distract her.

As she started to turn up the volume her cell phone buzzed across the coffee table. Immediately she tensed, worried it might be her would-be attacker again. It wasn’t but when she saw her father’s name on the caller ID, her tension didn’t abate.

She started to put the phone down, but guilt stopped her. After the things Adam had told her about his family, she knew she didn’t have it so bad. Or bad at all really. Her father might be insanely meddling and overprotective but he’d never hurt her.

“Hey, Dad.”

“Hello, sweetie. I wasn’t sure if you’d pick up.”

“What’s going on?”

“I just wanted to check on you, make sure everything was okay.”

“Why wouldn’t it be?” Her mind raced. Had the police contacted him?

“No reason. You’ve been on my mind all day, that’s all.”

“I’m okay so don’t worry.” Even she could hear the strain in her own voice and her father would pick up on it if she wasn’t careful.

“I didn’t call to bother you about moving home, I promise. Is there something else I should know about?”

She couldn’t tell him everything, or he’d probably send an entire security team. And that wasn’t something she was willing to live with now. “I was thinking about the kidnapping.”

“Ah.” He was silent for a long beat, probably because she’d surprised him. Rarely, if ever, did she talk about that nightmare. “Did something bring this on?”

“Not one thing in particular.” She crossed her fingers at the small lie. Despite their differences, she rarely lied to her father. If anything, she was sometimes too honest, something he claimed to hate. She seriously doubted it though.

“You know if you need me, I’m here.”

She did know and appreciated it now more than she’d ever imagined. Adam had father figures who had put cigarettes out on his skin.

Maybe she should be a lot more grateful. “I know and…and I do miss you, Dad. I just can’t handle you interfering in every aspect of my life.”

“I’m willing to admit I handled the incident at the museum poorly.”

“That’s just it. You shouldn’t have done anything at all. I’m an adult and that was my job.

Something you had no business interfering with.”

She kept her voice soft, not wanting him to feel like she was attacking. They’d already had this conversation before and she didn’t want a repeat of the last blowup.

“You’re right.”

“I…what?” She frowned, wondering if she’d heard correctly.

“I said you’re right. What I did was stupid. I could tell you I was just trying to look out for you, but in hindsight, I overreacted to a private conversation you and I had.”

Izzy wasn’t sure she trusted his admission.

“Are you just saying that because it’s what you think I want to hear?”

“No. I’m saying it because it’s true. I acted like a jackass and did the one thing I never wanted to do. I pushed you away.” She could hear the sincerity in his words.

“Wow, uh, thanks Dad.”

“I just hope you don’t let my mistakes keep you from working for me. You have a good opportunity and I’d hate to see you pass it up.”

She sighed at his words. “I’m not sure if I’m ready to work for you. I know you think I am, but no matter what, everyone will think I got the job because of you. Actually, they’ll know that’s why I got the job. Then what happens if I screw up?”

She didn’t know where the words came from, but they gushed from her like a geyser.

“Well, first off, if you screw up, it’s not the end of the world. I do it all the time. Just yesterday Ms. Priddy was telling me what a crazy old man I am.”

Despite herself, a small chuckle escaped. “I don’t know what you’d do without her.”

He sighed heavily. “Me neither… And so what if you get a job because of me? You’ll simply have to work harder to prove what you’re made of. I won’t lie. It’ll probably be tough at first, but you’re a Ballantine. You can handle it.”

Since she wasn’t quite ready to face the possibility of working for him, she veered the conversation in a different direction. “Thanks for calling tonight, Dad. I really needed to hear your voice.”

“You don’t ever have to thank me for that.”

She smiled to herself. “I know.”

After they disconnected, she stared at the flashing television screen. She turned up the volume and pressed play. As she stretched out on the couch, she tried to focus on the movie, but her father’s words played over in her head. Sighing, she punched one of the pillows in an effort to get more comfortable. He thought she could handle running one of his projects so why didn’t she? Adam flipped off the television as he stared at Izzy’s sleeping figure. During the day she was always going at full speed. Now however, her brow was slightly furrowed. Asleep and so still, she looked almost peaceful.

He checked the lock one more time, then jumped in the shower. Tomorrow he’d have to go back to his place and grab more clothes, but he had just enough to last him another day.

Starting tomorrow, he had to do what he came here to do in the first place. He had to convince Izzy to move back to Savannah. The sooner the better. Before his job had been all about making sure she was safe—which she wasn’t anymore— and possibly convincing her to move back. Now the thought of not seeing her face every morning was depressing.

If he was starkly honest with himself, he wanted her to move back to Georgia for purely selfish reasons. Yes he wanted her safe, but he also wanted her close to him. Staying over at her place had only solidified it for him. Living with Izzy permanently was something he could get used to. The thought of living with a woman should scare the hell out of him, but it didn’t. His experience with Amanda had fucked him up for a while. For years he hadn’t dated women who made more money than him. He’d known it was his own bullshit but it hadn’t mattered. He’d been young when she’d broken his heart and her words about him not being good enough had buried themselves deep in his psyche. Once he’d started doing private security work overseas and pulling in more than he ever imagined, he’d realized his income “requirements” had been beyond stupid.