Home > The Bodyguard Next Door (Wilde Ways #15)

The Bodyguard Next Door (Wilde Ways #15)
Author: Cynthia Eden


Chapter One

“I’ve been in some rough places,” Pierce Jennings confessed as he tightened his grip on the couch and angled down the hallway. “Some of the worst hellholes on the planet. Places littered with gunfire and death. Places where ash filled the air, and every breath was laced with bitterness, but, until now, I have never, never had to deal the torture of being trapped in—”

The door to his left swung open, and a cheerful voice called out, “Pierce!” A sweet cream and honey scent filled the air. “Do you need some help?”

“The friend zone,” he finished darkly.

Pierce was pretty sure his buddy Colt Easton choked out a laugh.

Forcing a smile, Pierce turned his attention to the little ray of sunshine who was currently giving him her dimpled smile. He tried—and failed—to ignore the hard kick in his gut. Every time that he looked at her, his whole body tightened. Hardened. Wanted.

Her dimples flashed at him. Fucking adorable. And sexy. Her blond hair—curling lightly with a mind of its own—trailed over her shoulders. Her heart-shaped face tilted up toward him. She had to angle herself up because the woman was tiny compared to him. All soft curves and delicate slopes. He clocked in close to six-foot-three, and he was all solid muscle thanks to what some had called his too rigorous workout routine.

“I can help carry the couch,” Iris Stuart continued in that lush, made-for-a-bedroom voice of hers. A voice that stroked over his skin and made him have way, way too many fantasies.

“I got it,” he growled back in a voice that Pierce knew sounded like a freaking bear’s rumble. Dammit. “No worries.” He did have the couch. He could carry it in his sleep. Did she not see the muscles he was deliberately flexing her way? Maybe he should flex a little more. But his t-shirt already strained around his biceps.

Another choked laugh came from Colt’s direction. His asshole of a partner seemed to find the whole world to be utterly hilarious. Why, oh, why had Pierce thought confiding in Colt about his obsession with his new neighbor would be a good idea? Not like Colt would be offering him any life-altering advice.

“Well, if you’re sure.” Iris nibbled on an absolutely delectable lower lip. Her eyes—the darkest, warmest chocolate brown he’d ever seen—swept over him—and darted to his buddy. “Oh, hi.” She took a quick step forward. “I’m Iris.” The amber in the depths of her dark eyes gleamed, looking like a flash of battered gold.

“I have heard of you,” came his partner’s amused reply. “Name’s Colt. It’s a pleasure. Truly.”

If it had been possible—if they had been close enough—Pierce would have kicked him.

“And let me just say,” Colt continued in that faint Texas drawl of his, “you have completely exceeded my expectations.” He acted as if he wasn’t currently holding up one end of a couch. As if he had all the time in the world to fawn over Iris. “I love your tattoo,” he added, as his gaze darted to her legs.

Oh, hell, no.

Iris currently wore a faded pair of old jean shorts, shorts with frayed edges and faint paint splatters on them. The shorts revealed the golden expanse of her legs, and the sexy-as-hell tattoo that drifted lovingly over the top of her right thigh.

“Do you have other tats?” Colt asked her curiously. “Because I’ve got—”

Pierce shoved the couch toward his partner. Hard. “Don’t worry about any other tats that she has.” Keep your eyes off her legs.

Colt turned his head toward him. Smiled innocently. “I was just thinking of getting a new one, and I figured she might be able to offer some inspiration.”

Right. The hell he’d thought that. Pierce’s eyes narrowed. “We need to move the couch inside. Now.”

“Oh? Is it getting too heavy for you?” Colt asked, all fake sympathy. “Probably need more protein in your diet. Or maybe you should do more lifts.”

Or I need a friend who isn’t an asshole. “I can carry this thing on my own.”

Behind them, the elevator dinged. Pierce and Iris were the only ones living on the second floor of the old, converted warehouse. For the elevator to ding…

Who is coming to visit her?

Automatically, his head turned as his gaze focused down the hallway. In the seven days that he’d been living in the building, no one had come to visit her place. He’d started to—rather optimistically—think that meant she wasn’t involved with anyone.

But the man striding from the elevator immediately locked his eyes on Iris and a wide grin split his face. His expression warmed and—

And Pierce considered tossing the couch at him.

Nope. Can’t do that. You’re one of the good guys, remember? It was just that when he was around Iris, Pierce didn’t feel quite so good.

“Iris Stuart?” The newcomer’s smile broadened. “I’m Bentley. Bentley Prestang.” He completely ignored the couch. And both Pierce and Colt. Instead, he closed in on Iris as he strode forward with his shoulders back, his chin up, and a gait rather like a rooster’s. “I’m here for the modeling job.”

Modeling job? Pierce knew she was an artist. He’d glimpsed some of her work when he’d poked his head inside her place to return the screwdriver she’d given him the other day. Not that he’d actually needed the screwdriver, not when he had six of his own, but borrowing hers had given him an excuse to talk to her. When he’d briefly gone in her place, canvases had been everywhere, and the work had been damn good. But this bozo…

“Let me just say,” Bentley announced with a fierce nod of his bright, blond head, “I am completely comfortable doing nudes.”

What. The. Fuck? Pierce dropped the couch.

“Ow! Sonofa—” Colt began.

Pierce had already whirled and was glowering at Bentley. “What the hell are you talking about?”

Iris grabbed Bentley’s arm. Tugged him toward her place. She inclined her head toward her open door. “Bentley, why don’t you go inside, and I’ll discuss the position with you?”

The position? Red seemed to fill Pierce’s vision. His head swiveled back toward her.

Her dimples winked again. “I should let you guys get back to moving furniture. If I can help, please shout at me.”

Oh, he felt like shouting.

“Good luck with the rest of your move,” she continued ever-so-sweetly. “Maybe I can bring some pizza by later and we can watch that movie you mentioned yesterday? I’ll get extra pepperonis. I remember you said you like your pizzas that way.”

Nudes. The dick offered to ditch his clothes for her. Pierce took a lumbering step toward her door. “My place,” he gritted out. I want you in my place now.

“I’ll be there. Eight sound good?”

Now sounded better, but he managed a jerky nod.

“Perfect.” Her smile held mega wattage. “So glad you’re in the building,” Iris added with a dip of her head. “It’s nice to have a good friend close by.”

The door to her place closed with a soft click. He stared at the wood. In his mind, he saw Bentley’s carefully styled blond hair. That too-white, capped-teeth grin. The jutting chest and rooster walk. Pierce’s fist rose toward her door.

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