A good-looking woman, late twenties, wavy, shoulder-length mink-brown hair, busily searched the drawers and cabinets behind the desk, bending over in a tailored pencil shirt, providing him with a perfect view of a very shapely ass.
He almost smiled. Even the help was first class.
She jerked upright at his approach, noticing him for the first time, and her face colored, a pretty face, remarkable really, with amazing golden brown eyes. Those eyes looked him up and down, which took a while, being six-five, two-hundred thirty-five pounds.
“May I help you?” she asked.
He gave her a smile. “I’m Jake Cantrell. I’ve got an appointment at ten with Ian Dumont.”
She frowned. “He didn’t mention it. He’s getting ready for a meeting. You might have to wait a while.”
“Not a problem. In the meantime, I could sure use a cup of coffee.”
Amusement tipped her mouth up, a tiny dimple appearing next to plump, rose-colored lips. “I’ll see what I can do.” But she didn’t make a move, just turned to the woman hurrying toward her across the waiting room.
“I’m so sorry I’m late, Ms. Dumont,” the woman said. “Thank you for covering for me.”
Sonofabitch, a Dumont, Jake thought. Asking her to fetch him a cup of coffee was probably not the best idea he’d ever had.
“It’s not a problem, Marie.” She tipped her head toward Jake. “Mr. Cantrell is here to see Ian. I have to go into the meeting. Could you get him a cup of coffee while he waits?”
Jake felt the slight rebuke in the glance she cast his way. Clearly, she wasn’t used to fetching a man much of anything.
“Of course,” Marie said. The Dumont woman headed for the tall walnut door leading into Ian Dumont’s imperial domain, her strides long and purposeful, as if she had someplace important to go. He liked a woman who didn’t dawdle. And besides the great ass, she had a pair of legs that wouldn’t quit.
He watched her disappear behind the door, wondering what role she played in the Dumont empire, then turned his attention to the receptionist.
Marie was smiling. “Mr. Cantrell, Mr. Dumont mentioned that you would be coming in. I believe he wants to see you as soon as you arrive.”
“Thank you, Marie.”
I’ll bring coffee into the meeting.” The woman blushed as he walked away. It was his size mostly, he figured, that made women take a second look. He was used to it by now.
He shoved open the office door and stepped inside, found only two people in the room–the woman he had subtly insulted and a silver-haired gentleman in his late seventies, slightly stooped but still impressive, undoubtedly Ian Dumont, CEO of the company.
“Mr. Cantrell, I assume,” the man said. “Our mutual friend, Trace Rawlins, had nothing but good things to say when he recommended you for this job. Please do join us.”
The Dumont woman was staring, one of her dark eyebrows elevated in question. He noticed she was wearing a flashy diamond engagement ring. Since he felt a jolt of heat whenever he looked at her, it was probably good she was out of his reach.
Ian Dumont reached out to shake his hand. A strong, solid handshake that set the tone for the discussion ahead. “Why don’t we all sit down?” Ian suggested.
They spaced themselves at the near end of the conference table, which sat in the middle of a room done in the same walnut and chrome as the waiting area.
Ian fixed his attention on Jake. “I asked you here to discuss providing security for one of our people during an upcoming business negotiation.”
“S.E. Dumont, you said when we spoke on the phone.”
“That is correct.”
“Wait a minute,” the dark-haired woman interrupted, her gaze sliding toward Jake. “Ian, you aren’t thinking–”
“Mr. Cantrell, I’d like you to meet my granddaughter, Sage Elizabeth Dumont.”
The room fell silent. Sonofabitch. She was his assignment?
“I don’t need a bodyguard, Ian.”
The old man turned toward her, a determined glint in a pair of eyes that looked strikingly similar to the flashing gold-ringed brown ones belonging to his granddaughter.
“Mr. Cantrell has experience in Middle Eastern protocol as well as a background in personal security. Isn’t that correct, Mr. Cantrell?”
“Over the years, I’ve done a lot of corporate protection work, both in South America and the Middle East. I worked in Saudi for three years after I got out of the Marines. So yes, I know the protocols.”
“This is simply not necessary,” Sage said.
Both men ignored her. “I understand you were in Special Forces. You served in Iraq, I believe.”
“Sage is Vice President of Acquisitions and Distribution for Marine Drilling. Currently she is involved in a transaction that may reach the three hundred million mark. A deal being negotiated with Sheik Khalid Al Kahzaz of Saudi Arabia. The sheik and his family are due to arrive in just a few days.”
“I see,” Jake said noncommittally. Protecting a corporate exec was one thing. Protecting a spoiled young socialite who got her job because she was a member of the Dumont family was something altogether different.
“With your experience,” Ian continued, “I’m hoping you will be able to guide my granddaughter through this visit with our Saudi friends, and should trouble arise in the city, also keep her safe.”
“That’s what I get paid for.”
Sage shifted in her chair, irritation clear in her face. “We need to discuss this in private, Ian.”
The old man smiled indulgently. “We can do that, of course, but the result will be the same. You’re representing Marine Drilling International. You will be prominently engaged in entertaining the sheik, his daughter and son, and the rest of his party. Currently, there is a great deal of unrest in the Middle East. Last night there was an incident right here in the city. Mr. Cantrell can handle whatever problem might come up.” He rose from his chair, and Jake and Sage stood up, too.
Ian turned to Jake. “When can you start?”
Part of him wanted to refuse the assignment. He didn’t want to deal with a bossy, cantankerous female. The other part was looking for something interesting to do after weeks of mostly sitting behind a desk. “If we only have a short time until they arrive,” he found himself saying, “we had start today.”
Sage’s spine went a little straighter. She fixed her gaze on Jake. Even with her ultra high heels she had to look up at him, which he could tell she didn’t like.
“Fine,” she said. “I’ll see you in my office in half an hour. Does that work for you?”
“I’ll be there.”
As soon as the door swooshed closed behind her, Jake heard Ian chuckle. “I knew she was going to pitch an all-out fit about this, but I want her safe. She means everything to me, Mr. Cantrell.”
“It’s just Jake. And you can count on me to take care of her–whether she likes it or not.”
Ian Dumont just smiled.
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