Danger lurks at every turn for scientist, Alexa McAllistair, but is her protector the man she thinks he is?
Download to your Kindle (eBook)
Handsome Matt Hemmings meets scientist Alexa McAllistair at a conference on nuclear energy in Rome…and against his professional judgment, he is smitten. The vulnerable – and beautiful - scientist arouses his protective instincts, and the desire to kiss her senseless. And it's more than evident that she feels the same way about him.
But when protesters storm the conference, Alexa is trapped, and Matt’s quick thinking saves her life.
Once back in London, Alexa learns to her horror he is only her bodyguard. Matt must convince Alexa that even though he was initially paid to protect her, the love he now feels is real.
Matt Hemmings had no problem following the tall, slender figure of Alexa McAllister, as she wove her way through the bustling terminal building at Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci Airport.
In her early thirties, she carried herself confidently, unaware of the appreciative glances from fellow travellers. Her thick auburn hair hung in long graceful curves to her shoulders. Casually dressed in black linen trousers, white shirt, and pink jacket, she looked elegant and refreshed despite having spent the morning at the office before catching the two and a half hour flight from London Heathrow. A small black leather purse dangled from her left shoulder, a matching laptop bag under it.
Matt matched his stride to hers as she wheeled her suitcase toward the exit and the queue of waiting taxis. He ignored the objections of an overweight German man who swore heartily at him for muscling into the line behind her. He waited until she gave directions to the driver, and then seized the opportunity to step forward.
“Excuse me. Did I hear you say, Hotel La Capanna?”
Alexa flinched at the sound of his voice and spun round. “Yes, you did. What of it?”
“What a coincidence. I’m staying there too. It seems pointless us taking separate taxis. Care to share?”
Alexa hesitated. “I don’t—”
“Sorry, I should have introduced myself.” He smiled and held out his hand. “Matt Hemmings. I can assure you, I’m not a stalker. I’m kind to puppies, old ladies and children. You can ask my mother, she’ll tell you I’m perfectly harmless.”
She laughed and visibly relaxed. “Alexa McAllister,” she replied, and shook his hand. “All right, but on condition we split the fare.”
Matt held open the door while she settled herself inside, then slipped onto the rear seat beside her.
“I thought you looked familiar. You’re giving the keynote speech at the symposium. I don’t suppose you remember me, but we met at MIT last month. Carl Snyder introduced us.”
It was always rush hour in Rome. Buses jostled for position with trucks, motorcycles, scooters and cars. When their taxi swerved to avoid a collision between a bus and a scooter, Alexa’s shoulder bumped into his, and he caught the scent of her crisp, floral perfume.
“Sorry,” she said, and leaned back in her seat. “How well do you know Carl, Mr. Hemmings?”
Was that a hint of suspicion? He had a feeling her green eyes had already seen through his cover and were inspecting the ID in his wallet.
“Call me, Matt, please. Carl really did introduce us. We stood next to the dais after his lecture, along with Marcus Somerville from Cambridge University. I can even tell you what you wore.”
“That’s okay, I believe you. So you’re here for the symposium. Are you making a presentation, Matt?”
He studied her face for a moment. None of the photographs he’d seen did her justice. Her facial bones were delicately carved, her mouth full, her eyes serenely compelling. It was easy to forget that there was a highly intelligent brain in that pretty head.
He grinned. “No, I’m here as a delegate, to listen and report back to my employers.”
Their taxi pulled up in front of the ivy-covered hotel. Matt got out and paid the driver, then followed Alexa into the lobby.
The interior, with its authentic lacunar ceiling, pale terracotta walls, and marble floor, felt wonderfully cool compared to the inefficient air conditioning of the taxi.
As they approached the reception desk Alexa opened her purse and took out her wallet. “How much do I owe you for my share of the fare?”
“It’s on me.”
“No, I insist.”
Matt watched her for the space of a long breath. He wanted to wrap her in his arms and take her away from the city where any one of three million inhabitants and countless tourists posed a threat. Instead he raked his fingers through his hair. He wished he’d met her under different circumstances, circumstances where friendly flirtation led to something far more meaningful. This is not a date, he reminded himself. It’s an assignment. Concentrate.
Amusement flickered in his eyes. “Have dinner with me this evening and we’ll call it quits,” he suggested, and every evening he added silently.
“You’re very sure of yourself.” She gave him a sidelong glance.
Matt adopted what he hoped was a hurt expression. “Not confident, merely hopeful.”
“I’m flattered, and I’m sorry to disappoint you. But, this is going to sound so clichéd, I have a speech to prepare.”
“You’re right. It does, which is why I’m not taking ‘no’ for answer.”
Alexi’s sense of humour took over and she laughed in response. “And you’re persistent, too.” She hesitated for a moment. “All right, seven-thirty on the roof terrace?”
His face creased into a smile. “Seven-thirty it is.”