Cade “Hercules” Thornton is an ex-Marine and soldier of fortune; now he’s the owner of Hercules Security, which provides the best bodyguards in the business. After his leg was crushed and reconstructed, Cade doesn’t do field work anymore - until a challenge is issued to him by wealthy Kate Morgan, who wants her “bookish” grandson protected from a stalker. She insists on having the very best bodyguard available, and that is Cade himself.
But there is nothing laid back or bookish about Dr. Jude Morgan. Having lived under the thumb of his grandmother his entire life, Jude is insistent that he doesn’t need a babysitter. Sparks fly when Cade tries to insinuate himself into Jude’s life, and Cade knocks Jude on his ass - literally.
Yet the danger to Jude is real, and Cade is the only thing standing between him and an increasingly more terrifying stalker. Cade’s protective feelings for his client become something more, while Jude begins to realize that his brawny, neo-Viking protector is a man unlike anyone he’s ever known. Yet as Cade and Jude grow closer, so does the danger.
Cade will stop at nothing to protect Jude, but Jude’s stalker is determined to get his man - even if he has to kill Cade Thornton to do it.
Excerpt Cade first went up to the porch to look at the box, which was only about 12 inches tall. He and Finnegan discussed what needed to be done, then they began the tedious process of carefully setting up the x-ray machine to get images from a couple of different angles. Fortunately, the device was pretty flexible, since it had been designed to be used by veterinarians who needed to examine farm animals in the field. Finally satisfied there wasn’t a bomb inside, Cade and Finnegan donned masks, gloves, and goggles and set about opening the package.
The contents made Cade grimace in disgust. Simpson was definitely fucked up in the head. He told Finnegan to call the police and took the single page note tucked inside the wrapping and returned to the van.
He opened the door. “Matt, give us a minute, would you?” he asked. When his man had left the van, Cade got inside and closed the door. “I don’t think you want to see what was in that package. But he left you a note.” He held it up so Jude could read it.
Next time, it could be your new friend’s.
Jude looked up from the note. “What was in the package?” he asked quietly.
Cade didn’t want to answer, but he knew he had to. “A small Styrofoam cooler with dry ice packed around the heart of some large animal. Probably a cow.” He kept his tone as matter-of-fact as he could, although he suspected it wasn’t going to keep Jude from being horrified.
Jude’s face went pale as milk, and when he spoke, his voice was hoarse. “My God... I never realized he was so sick. How could I not have known?”
“People like him learn to hide things,” Cade said quietly. “They look and act as normal as you or me most of the time, until they suddenly don’t. Think about how many perfectly innocent seeming people have turned out to be child molesters, or murderers, or rapists. There isn’t any way you could have known, especially if he was determined to make sure you didn’t suspect.”
“Why me?” Jude stared at Cade, his eyes filled with doubt and confusion. “What’s wrong with me?”
“Nothing! There’s nothing at all wrong with you!” Cade put the note down and peeled off his gloves so he could take one of Jude’s hands in both of his. “You can’t think that way, because this isn’t your fault. It’s not even about you, Jude. This is all about him. He’s a sick son-of-a-bitch who needs to be put away where he can get help. You didn’t ask for this, any more than you asked to be born with blue eyes. Trust me on this, please. Sometimes things just happen, and all you can do is deal with them and move on. Never doubt yourself, especially not because of this.”
“Obviously I can’t make good choices when it comes to men,” Jude replied bitterly. “Maybe I’m better off alone.”
“What?” Cade stared at him. “So you picked one loser who didn’t look like a loser at the time. Why do you think that should condemn you to be alone? If you let him do that to you, then he wins even after we’ve caught him and thrown his ass in jail. It seems to me you've spent your life defining yourself by what other people do to you. First, your grandmother and her attempts to manipulate you, and now Simpson and his attempts to manipulate you. Maybe what you need isn't to be alone, but to tell everyone to fuck off and do exactly what you want to do for a change.”
“Thomas isn’t my first mistake. He just happens to be the first obsessed one,” Jude retorted, shaking his head. “I would love to tell everyone to fuck off and do what I want, but that’s a lot easier said than done.”
“Why? You’re young, you’re gorgeous, and you’re well-off.” Cade shrugged slightly. “If you wanted to, you could spend the rest of your life on a beach somewhere warm, sipping drinks served to you by bronzed hunks in speedos. What are they going to do to you, even your grandmother? Call you to death?”
“As if Kate would let me go that easily.” Jude released a long, slow breath and scrubbed his face with both hands. “Anyway, I can’t think about it right now. I have to get the situation with Thomas settled first.”
“Right. The police will be here soon, and they’ll carry everything away for evidence.” Cade took a moment to bag the note, handling it carefully. “Hopefully there’s a fingerprint on this note to match the one from the flowers. I think we’ll be able to get your restraining order now. Then if we can catch him on your property, we’ll have him behind bars in five minutes.”
“Good,” Jude said grimly, staring out the front window.