Harlequin Publishing Corp.

Romantic suspense

December 2024

ISBN-10: 1335502602

ISBN-13: 978-1335502605

Order from Amazon

Order from Barnes & Noble

Order from Books-A-Million

Order from Bookshop

Order from Target

Subscribe to my free enewsletter for advance release information.

Second-Chance Bodyguard: Touré Security Group, Book 3

He needs her help …
And he wants her love

Hezekiah Touré cares about two things: looking after his younger brothers and managing the Touré Security Group. To protect his family, he agrees to go into hiding with Celeste Jarrett after a serial killer’s threat. As a private investigator, Celeste has information Zeke’s family can use. As a woman he tried to love, she’s always been hard to reach. Sharing a safe house might lead to sharing her bed, but can he convince her to trust him? Or will the wounds she suffered in the past drive them apart again?

Second-Chance Bodyguard: Excerpt

Celeste called on her better angels as she let the Touré brothers escort her to their conference room Friday evening. She needed them to keep her grounded. Every time she thought of Hezekiah Touré’s final phone call, she wanted to go off.

She crossed into the conference room toward the rear of their office suite. Jerry held the black-cushioned chair on the right side of the large, rectangular glass-and-sterling-silver table for her. He took the seat beside her. Mal settled into the chair opposite Jerry, which left Zeke sitting right in front of her. Perfect. She schooled her features to keep even a hint of irritation from her expression.

The Touré brothers were ridiculously handsome, tall and athletic, with chiseled sienna features softened by full, sensual lips. Their dark, deep-set eyes could make you forget your inhibitions. Celeste had an out-of-body experience every time Zeke’s almond-shaped coal black eyes connected with hers.

The brothers had very different personalities, though. Zeke, the de facto head of the company, was in charge of corporate security. He projected an unmistakable air of strength and authority. Mal led the agency’s cybersecurity division. He was the contemplative one who considered everything—what you wanted him to see and things you didn’t want him to notice—before deciding on a course of action. Jerry oversaw the agency’s personal security services. He gave the impression of being in constant motion, even when he was sitting still. He was impetuous and impatient, which tended to catch people off guard.

The conference room’s chalk-white walls were decorated with beautiful oil paintings displayed in black metal frames. The subjects were well-known Ohio landmarks, including the Ohio Statehouse, the Cincinnati Observatory, the Paul Laurence Dunbar House, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and The Ohio State University Oval. Celeste remembered they’d all been painted by Zeke.

The back of the room was a floor-to-ceiling window offering a portal for a wealth of sunlight. It overlooked the front parking lot and framed the treetops and a distant view of the city’s outer belt, Interstate 270.

Celeste’s eyes dipped to the manila envelope lying on the table in front of Zeke before returning to him. She ignored the way her heart vaulted into her throat. “May I see the contents?”

He slid the envelope across the table to her. Celeste withdrew the two sheets of paper. Her heart stopped. This was worse than she’d thought. She masked her battle to restore her composure by taking her time examining the printouts. Finally, she returned them to the envelope, then nudged the packet back to Zeke. Did he notice her hand shaking?

She swallowed the lump of fear in her throat, and addressed Mal and Jerry. “Arthur Bailey died two weeks ago.”

Mal nodded. “We were sorry to hear that. We sent a card and flowers to his family.”

Of course they did. The considerate gesture, even toward a competitor, was in keeping with the Tourés’ reputation in the community. “His death was determined to be suicide—”

“How did he die?” Zeke’s deep, bluesy voice caused her heartbeat to skip.

Celeste steeled herself to meet his eyes again. “Meryl found his body in his car. Their garage was locked, and the engine was running. According to the ME’s report, his blood alcohol level was .12, legally drunk.”

Zeke briefly closed his eyes. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t know.”

His brothers echoed his sentiment.

Returning her attention to Mal and Jerry, Celeste continued. “Meryl doesn’t believe Arthur committed suicide. He’d been under a lot of stress, but he wasn’t depressed. Most importantly, she’s adamant he wouldn’t have wanted her to find him like that. She’s hired me to look into his death.”

Jerry gestured toward Zeke. “What does that have to do with the threats against Zeke?”

Impatient as always. Celeste had noticed that about Jerry when she’d worked with the Tourés on The Bishop Foundation case. She could relate. She didn’t like wasting time, either. “Arthur died a little more than a month after losing the Archer Family Realty account to TSG.”

“Wait a minute.” Zeke lifted his hand, palm out. “Do you think he committed suicide because we got the Archer account?”

Celeste looked at his large palm and long fingers. She could almost feel their warmth on her skin. She dropped her eyes to the table. “I don’t think Arthur committed suicide. As I was saying, a little more than a month after losing the account, Arthur dies. Two weeks later, Dean Archer dies. Today, you received a threatening message.” She inclined her head toward the envelope between them. It gave her the shivers.

Zeke’s thick dark brown eyebrows knitted together, and his eyes narrowed in a sexy frown. “You think Arthur’s and Dean’s deaths are connected to this message?”

Celeste spread her hands. “I don’t think these are coincidences.”

“Neither do I.” Mal’s tone was sharp, cutting off any possible denials.

Jerry’s dark eyes hardened with determination. “At least now we have a possible motive for the threat. That will help us identify the killer.”

Zeke arched an eyebrow. “Alleged killer.” He pinned Celeste with a skeptical look. “Dean died of a heart attack. And I empathize with Ms. Bailey, but does she have concrete evidence Arthur didn’t kill himself? Did it look like a break-in? Were there signs of a struggle in their home or garage? Did he have defensive wounds from a fight?”

Celeste shook her head. “All she has is a gut feeling—and their forty-year marriage. I believe her suspicions should be taken seriously.”

Mal rotated his swivel chair to face Zeke. “So do I. But if she’s right, then the killer—or killers—was able to get close to the victims.”

Zeke met Mal’s eyes. “What about Dean’s heart attack?”

Jerry tossed a hand toward his brother. “Come on, Zeke. You know as well as we do there are poisons that can mimic a heart attack. We need to get you someplace safe while we look for the person threatening you.”

“I’m not going to let someone send me running for cover.” Zeke leaned into the glass-and-sterling-silver table. The shift brought him closer to Celeste. “We’re a security company. How would that look?”

“Like we can take our own advice,” Mal responded.

Zeke held his brother’s eyes. “We’re going to find the person behind this threat.”

“We’ll combine our resources.” Celeste looked around the table. Working together, surely they would be able to keep the stubbornest Touré safe.

Zeke shifted his attention back to her. “With all due respect, Celeste, I’m not convinced our two situations are connected. My brothers and I will do some investigating of our own to see whether the deaths are suspicious.”

Celeste blinked. Was he being cautious? Or was he trying to avoid her? The answer was ridiculously obvious to her.

“All right.” With a mental shrug, she stood. The brothers rose with her. “I’ve got to get back to work. I have to catch a killer—and save your life.”

Celeste wasn’t certain how long her legs would support her. She turned to lead the men from their conference room without waiting to witness Zeke’s reaction to her provocative claim. Yes, she’d made the statement to irritate him, but it was also true. Someone was targeting the people involved in the Archer Family Realty account. Zeke might not think the threat was serious, but she wasn’t willing to bet his life on that.