Skip to main content

Excerpt - Protecting Her Own by Margaret Daley


Protecting Her Own
by
Margaret Daley


Nothing short of her dad's stroke could bring professional bodyguard Cara Madison back to Virginia. But her homecoming turns explosive with a pipe-bomb package addressed to her father. Cara knows two things for sure. First, someone's after either her father or her…or both. And second, this job is too big to handle on her own. Unexpected help comes from agent Connor Fitzgerald. Years ago she'd walked away from him…and love. Now, despite their unresolved feelings, they must join forces—and settle their scarred past—to survive.


Excerpt of chapter one:

"I thought that was taken care of." Cara Madison gripped her cell to her ear so tightly her hand ached as she hurried toward the foyer of her childhood home to answer the door. Exhaustion clung to her as though woven into every fiber of her being.

The bell chimed again.

"No, the State Department still has some questions," Kyra Morgan, her employer at Guardians, Inc., said.

"Hold it a sec. Someone's at the door."

She peered through the peephole, noting a deliveryman with a package and clipboard, dressed in a blue ball cap, blue shorts and white T-shirt. Probably another birthday present from one of Dad's friends. She thrust open the door and cradled the cell against her shoulder to keep it in place.

"So I have to make a trip into Washington, D.C., to see Mr. Richards at the State Department?" Cara asked her boss while she scribbled her name on the sheet of paper then took the box.

Stepping back into the house, Cara shut the door with a nudge of her hip and carried the package to the round table in the center of the dining room to put it with the multitude of others—all presents from people around the world whom her father knew.

"Cara, I'm sorry you need to go at this time. I know that last assignment was rough and now with bringing your dad home from the rehabilitation center, you don't need this complication. Mr. Richards assured me it's just a debriefing about the riots occurring in Nzadi."

She wished she could say that wasn't her fault, but what she did had set the protests off. Guilt swamped her. In protecting her client, a revered humanitarian in Nzadi was killed instead. "Don't worry. I'm tough. I'll survive. I'll call the man and set up an appointment after I get Dad home and settled."

For a few seconds she studied the plain brown box from Global Magazine with C. Madison on the label before peeling back the top flap on the carton. The sound of the tape ripping the cardboard reverberated in the stillness, exposing the top of a gift wrapped in black paper. Black? True, her father was turning sixty tomorrow, but wasn't black wrapping a little too macabre after he suffered a stroke eight weeks ago?

"I'm sure it's only a formality." Her boss's assurance drew Cara's thoughts away from the gift. "My impression from the State Department was you won't have to go back to answer any more questions from the Nzadi government."

The word Nzadi shivered down her length, leaving a track of chills even though it was summer. "I'll call you after I talk to Mr. Richards. Bye." Cara clicked off and stared down at the open box that nestled the new present, wrapped in black paper. Black like people wore to funerals. Black as the dress of the beloved lady who had been killed in the café. Cara shivered again. She wanted to forget Nzadi, but she didn't think she ever would.

The image of the beautiful woman, bleeding out on the floor of the café, nudged those last days in the African country to the foreground. She'd managed to push the trophy wife she was protecting out of the way of the assassin's bullet, only to have it lodge in the woman across from them. Again she heard the angry shouts from the crowd as she'd been driven to the Nzadian airport. The people's grief over the death of Obioma Dia had evolved into fury at Cara and the woman she'd been assigned to protect.

A shrill whistle pierced the air.

Shaking the image and the shouts from her mind, she glanced toward the kitchen. The water she was heating for her tea. The noise insisted on her immediate attention and grated her frazzled nerves. But the sound was a welcome reprieve from the thoughts never far away.

She quickly headed toward the kitchen and a soothing cup of tea along with a moment to rest and think about her father's situation—the reason she was in Clear Branch. She craved peace after the past couple of hectic days—after her last disastrous bodyguard assignment in a country that fell apart around her. Nzadi was still suffering the worst unrest in decades.

Just inside the kitchen she pocketed her phone, wishing she could silence it like she could the teakettle's racket. But her cell was her lifeline, especially when she was on a job. And now also because her dad's homecoming celebration was cancelled because of a reaction to a new medication that made the doctor decide at the last minute to keep him a few more days. She'd planned a small birthday party for tomorrow and would need to finish calling his friends to tell them she'd have to postpone the festivity.

As steam shot out of the spout on the white pot, she snatched it off the burner and set it on a cool spot on the stove. Finally the loud, annoying sound quieted. She turned toward the cabinet behind her to get a mug.

Blissful silence—no angry people in Nzadi yelling words that still curdled her blood, no rehabilitation center—

A boom rocked the foundation beneath her feet. She flew back and slammed against the edge of the counter so hard the air rushed from her lungs. Her momentum then spun her to the side, her hip clipping the corner. Her head swung back against the freezer handle then forward. Darkness swirled before her eyes as bits of wood and plaster rained down upon her, stinging her skin. Her ears rang, drowning out any sound except the thundering of her heartbeat vying for dominance.

She fumbled at her waist for the gun she wore on the job. Nothing. An urgency hammered her. Then scanning her surroundings, she realized it was on her nightstand in her bedroom. She looked toward what used to be the door from the dining room, trying to clear the haze in her mind. To figure out what to do.

Assess the situation.

Part of the wall was gone and gray smoke bellowed through the opening, carrying dust, wood chips and black bits. The wrapping paper? The stench of black powder assaulted her nostrils. She coughed, squinting to see through the ominous cloud invading every corner of the kitchen. She swiped at her gritty eyes but stopped in midaction, afraid to rub them anymore for fear of damaging them.

Need some kind of weapon.

She started toward the drawer a few feet away from her. Her legs gave out. Crumpling down the refrigerator to the tile floor, she grabbed at the dish towel hanging over the edge of the counter nearby and covered her mouth and nose with it. The room continued to rotate as though gravity were playing some kind of cruel joke on her. With a gong clanging against her skull from the concussion of the blast, she rolled over onto her knees and pushed up. The room swayed and she fell back.

She groped for her cell in her pocket and managed to slip it out, but her hand trembled so much she dropped it on the debris-covered tile.

Got to pull myself together. I've been in tough situations before.

To still the thundering of her heartbeat, she took a moment and inhaled steadying breaths through the filtering material of the towel. More coughs racked her.

Stay calm. Call 911.

She flipped the phone open while it still rested on the floor and began punching in the numbers. Drawing in another deep breath, she lifted it to her ear. The shrill ringing in her ears persisted. She doubted she could hear the 911 operator, but she needed help even getting up.

She waited a few seconds, hoping the 911 operator had answered, then said into the cell, "I can't hear you. I need help. Cara—Madison." Panic began to worm its way into her mind. With her hand holding the phone quivering, she quickly finished, "Explosion. 218 North Pine. Hurry."

Did I get through?

The cell slipped from her nerveless fingers. Still connected to 911, she hoped, she left the phone next to her while she clutched the dish towel against her face. All she wanted to do now was collapse to the cold, dirty tiles and close her eyes to still the spinning. And wait to be rescued. Dust and debris from the dining room coated the floor, a reminder of what just happened. A thought nagged her.

As a bodyguard for the past four years, she'd had one assignment where an explosion had been involved. She tried to remember back to that job her first year, but her thoughts swirled like the gray smoke earlier. What if the blast wasn't the only one? What if it ignited a fire?

Trained to remain calm in chaotic situations, she shoved her rising panic down and crawled toward the back door. A stab of pain emanated from her hip that had hit the counter, making her progress laborious. The dizziness from her movement threatened to swallow her. She had to slow down her pace even more. The scent of sulfur hung in the hazy, smoked-filled kitchen. Another spasm of coughing assailed her. Every muscle tensed as the minutes ticked by, and yet she was still only halfway to her escape. A chunk of Sheetrock crashed to the floor near her, dust mushrooming into the air. Glancing up, she spied cracks in the ceiling. Her heart jammed into her throat.

"Well, as I live and breathe, Connor Fitzgerald here in my station." Sheriff Taylor pumped Connor's arm as he shook his hand. "What brings you down here?"

"Can't an old friend visit?" Connor grinned at the taller man, several years older than his own age of thirty-four.

"Come in and tell me how it's going." Sean Taylor waved his hand toward one of two chairs in front of his desk. "How's it going at Virginia's Criminal Intelligence Division?"

"Work's good. Busy." Connor folded his long length into the chair, resting his elbows on the padded arms. "I'm here for a week to spend some time with Gramps rather than my usual one or two days. He gets lonely. He claims all his contemporaries are dying off."

"Your grandfather continues to surprise me. He's eighty and still going strong."

"Yup, that's him."

"At least you aren't too far away in Richmond."

The door opened and a deputy stuck his head into the room. "Sheriff, there's been a 911 call from Cara Madison at her dad's. She reported an explosion at the house. I dispatched two deputies and called Doc Sims."

Cara's here? She's hurt? Connor sat up straight, his gut tightening. "Who's injured?"

"Don't know. All she said was there was an explosion and that she couldn't hear well. The 911 operator tried to get more information from her but couldn't."

Sean snatched up his keys. "Thanks." Turning toward Connor, he continued, "Want to come? I know you and Cara go way back."

Connor nodded and rose. He hadn't seen her in years, and the last time they hadn't parted on good terms. He'd wanted her to stay in Clear Branch and marry him. She'd wanted to see the world. She'd left the next day.

follow you in my car," Connor said as he strode with Sean toward the exit.

Cara's father knew a lot of important people in Virginia as well as Washington, D.C. If someone was after him, the Criminal Investigative Department of the Virginia State Police could be called in to assist with the case. Since Connor was an investigator for the CID, he might as well check on what happened. That was the only reason he was going. Yeah, right, as if you don't want to make sure Cara's okay.

In his Jeep Cherokee, Connor pulled out of the parking lot right behind the sheriff's vehicle. Although his gaze focused on the white car with the flashing lights and siren in front of him, his thought centered on Cara, the only woman who had captured his heart and then crushed it. If Virginia's CID was called in, that didn't mean the case had to be his problem. He could probably claim conflict of interest. He didn't need another problem on his plate.

Cara hadn't been his concern for thirteen years. So why was he going to the Madison house?

He couldn't shake the question: Was she all right? The last he'd heard anything about her she'd quit her job as an investigative reporter for a major TV network. But that was five years ago. Didn't Gramps say something about her becoming a bodyguard? Whenever his grandfather tried to talk about Cara, Connor had always changed the subject. Now he wished he'd listened for once.

Then another question popped into his thoughts as he turned onto Pine Street in Clear Branch: Why do I care?

A fire truck and two deputies' cars were parked in front of a sprawling ranch-style home with a gaping hole where a large picture window in the dining room used to be. Bits of that window and brick around it littered the yard. He'd wanted his detached, professional facade to slip into place, but the sight of the damage the explosion had caused shoved his concern to the foreground. Fear spurred his heartbeat.

Lord, in spite of our history, I don't want Cara hurt.

Climbing from his Jeep, he surveyed the quiet, well-to-do neighborhood. Several people stood on their lawns observing the commotion. His long strides ate up the distance between him and Sean, who had finished talking to a firefighter and was heading toward the gaping hole in the house.

Check to make sure she's in one piece. Then leave.

"A gas explosion?" Connor asked, taking a whiff of the air. Nothing hinted at that, but he did smell a faint odor of sulfur as though someone had recently shot off some fireworks. Alarm bells went off in his mind. "Since C.J. had his stroke, is he still working for Global News?"

"You smell it, too, don'tcha?"

"Yup, black powder."

"He's still at Sunny Meadows, but if I know C.J., he'll be back to his old desk as soon as humanly possible. He was supposed to be home today."

"Where's Cara?" What if she'd passed out somewhere in the house after she made the 911 call? What if there was another bomb? He quickened his steps toward the front door, which was barely hanging on its hinges.

A hand on his arm halted his progress. "I've called the tri-county task force's bomb squad. Also, ATF. I don't want anyone inside until they clear it. Even the firefighters will stay back unless a fire breaks out."

"But Cara?" Lord, she has to be okay.

Sean tossed his head in the direction of the side of the house. "My deputy has her. He found her out back. She's okay."

Connor turned and saw one of the deputies and Cara making their way slowly across the lawn. For a few seconds his heartbeat pummeled against his rib cage at the disheveled sight of her—alive but hurt. He forced his emotions concerning her into a box and slammed the lid closed, searching for that professional facade so necessary for him to do his job.

Print book:
eHarlequin.com (Save an extra 10% with code SAVE10EHQN at checkout!)
Barnes and Noble
Amazon
Christianbook.com
BooksaMillion.com

Ebook:
eHarlequin.com (Save an extra 10% with code SAVE10EHQN at checkout!)
Nookbook
Kindle
BooksaMillion






Save 20% off all Love Inspired Suspense Books

Comments

Popular Posts

Year of the Dog serial novel

About Year of the Dog : A month or two ago, I remembered an old manuscript I had completed but which hadn’t sold. It was a contemporary romance meant for Zondervan, titled Year of the Dog . The book had gone into the pipeline and I even got another title ( Bad Dog ) and a cover for it, but eventually my editor at the time decided she didn’t want to publish it, for various reasons. She instead requested a romantic suspense, and so I cannibalized some of the characters from Year of the Dog and thrust them into the next book I wrote, which was Protection for Hire . Honestly, I didn’t take a lot from Year of the Dog to put in Protection for Hire , aside from character names and a few relationship ties. I was originally thinking I’d post Year of the Dog as-is on my blog as a free read, but then it occurred to me that I could revamp it into a romantic suspense and change the setting to Hawaii. It would work out perfectly as (yet another) prequel to the Warubozu series and introduce

A new tier in my Patreon

I started my Patreon for my fans and for people who didn’t want to buy my books on Kindle. My patrons get each new ebook 2-3 weeks early for only $3 (which is usually the newsletter-only price), and they only get charged when I release a book, not every month. At the moment, I’m releasing my Christian historical romantic suspense series, Lady Wynwood’s Spies. But after I finish that series, I’ll be releasing my Christian contemporary romantic suspense series, the Warubozu Spa Chronicles, and those in my Patreon will be able to get those books early, too. I just added a new $1.00 tier for fans who would prefer to read my books in Kindle Unlimited or buy the Kindle ebook, but just want to support me. Click here to read more about my Patreon. Thank you so much for reading my books!

No Cold Bums toilet seat cover

Captain's Log, Stardate 08.22.2008 I actually wrote out my pattern! I was getting a lot of hits on my infamous toilet seat cover , and I wanted to make a new one with “improvements,” so I paid attention and wrote things down as I made the new one. This was originally based off the Potty Mouth toilet cover , but I altered it to fit over the seat instead of the lid. Yarn: any worsted weight yarn, about 120 yards (this is a really tight number, I used exactly 118 yards. My suggestion is to make sure you have about 130 yards.) I suggest using acrylic yarn because you’re going to be washing this often. Needle: I used US 8, but you can use whatever needle size is recommended by the yarn you’re using. Gauge: Not that important. Mine was 4 sts/1 inch in garter stitch. 6 buttons (I used some leftover shell buttons I had in my stash) tapestry needle Crochet hook (optional) Cover: Using a provisional cast on, cast on 12 stitches. Work in garter st until liner measures

Year of the Dog serial novel, chapter 9

I’m posting a Humorous Christian Romantic Suspense serial novel here on my blog! Year of the Dog is a (second) prequel to my Warubozu Spa Chronicles series. Year of the Dog serial novel by Camy Tang Marisol Mutou, a professional dog trainer, is having a bad year. While renovating her new dog kenneling and training facility, she needs to move in with her disapproving family, who have always made her feel inadequate—according to them, a job requiring her to be covered in dog hair and slobber is an embarrassment to the family. She convinces her ex-boyfriend to take her dog for a few months … but discovers that his brother is the irate security expert whose car she accidentally rear-ended a few weeks earlier. Ashwin Keitou has enough problems. His aunt has just shown up on his doorstep, expecting to move in with him, and he can’t say no because he owes her everything—after his mother walked out on them, Aunt Nell took in Ashwin and his brother and raised them in a loving Chri

Grace Livingston Hill romances free to read online

I wanted to update my old post on Grace Livingston Hill romances because now there are tons more options for you to be able to read her books for free online! I’m a huge Grace Livingston Hill fan. Granted, not all her books resonate with me, but there are a few that I absolutely love, like The Enchanted Barn and Crimson Roses . And the best part is that she wrote over 100 books and I haven’t yet read them all! When I have time, I like to dive into a new GLH novel. I like the fact that most of them are romances, and I especially appreciate that they all have strong Christian themes. Occasionally the Christian content is a little heavy-handed for my taste, but it’s so interesting to see what the Christian faith was like in the early part of the 20th century. These books are often Cinderella-type stories or A Little Princess (Frances Hodgson Burnett) type stories, which I love. And the best part is that they’re all set in the early 1900s, so the time period is absolutely fasci

Follow Camy on BookBub

Follow my author profile on BookBub! You’ll get an email from BookBub whenever I have a new ebook release and when my books are ever featured there. Click here to go to my Camille Elliot page on BookBub.

ひとり寿司第28章パート2

「ひとり寿司」をブログに連載します! ひとり寿司 寿司シリーズの第一作 キャミー・タング 西島美幸 訳 スポーツ狂のレックス・坂井 —— いとこのマリコが数ヶ月後に結婚することにより、「いとこの中で一番年上の独身女性」という内輪の肩書を「勝ち取る」ことについては、あまり気にしていない。コントロールフリークの祖母を無視するのは容易だ —— しかし、祖母は最終通告を出した —— マリコの結婚式までにデート相手を見つけなければ、無慈悲な祖母は、レックスがコーチをしている女子バレーボールチームへの資金供給を切ると言う。 ダグアウトにいる選手全員とデートに出かけるほど絶望的なわけではない。レックスは、バイブルスタディで読んだ「エペソの手紙」をもとに「最高の男性」の条件の厳しいリストを作った。バレーボールではいつも勝つ —— ゲームを有利に進めれば、必ず成功するはずだ。 そのとき兄は、クリスチャンではなく、アスリートでもなく、一見何の魅力もないエイデンを彼女に引き合わせる。 エイデンは、クリスチャンではないという理由で離れていったトリッシュという女の子から受けた痛手から立ち直ろうとしている。そして、レックスが(1)彼に全く興味がないこと、(2)クリスチャンであること、(3)トリッシュのいとこであることを知る。あの狂った家族とまた付き合うのはごめんだ。まして、偽善的なクリスチャンの女の子など、お断り。彼はマゾヒストじゃない。 レックスは時間がなくなってきた。いくら頑張っても、いい人は現れない。それに、どこへ行ってもエイデンに遭遇する。あのリストはどんどん長くなっていくばかり —— 過去に掲載済みのストーリーのリンクはこちらです。 *** キッチンテーブルの上にごちゃごちゃと置かれている食べ物を見つけた。フルーツが入ったお皿は、すでに子供たちがめちゃくちゃにしていたが、新鮮なマグロの刺身は、巻き寿司の隣にきれいに並んでいた。天ぷら鍋から取り出したばかりのもち粉チキンは、まだ湯気が立っていて、祖母の自家製たくあんが、その隣の小皿に置かれている。 「わあ、叔母さんか誰かが、エビの天ぷら作ったんだわ」トリッシュはエビの天ぷらを紙皿に取った。 レックスはお皿をつかんだ。ここに来た唯一の理由。祖母ですら、美味しい日本食を食べていると

A List of my Free Blog Reads

Curious about what my writing is like? Here’s a list of all my free books and the free short stories, novellas, and novels that you can read here on my blog. I’ll update this post as I add more free reads. Christian Humorous Romantic Suspense: Year of the Dog (Warubozu Spa Chronicles series, Prequel novel) (Currently being posted monthly on my blog as a serial novel) Marisol Mutou, a professional dog trainer, finally has a chance to buy a facility for her business, but her world is upended when she must move in with her disapproving family, who have always made her feel inadequate. When she stumbles upon a three-year-old missing persons case, security expert Ashwin Keitou, whose car she accidentally rear-ended a few weeks earlier, is tasked with protecting her. However, danger begins to circle around them from people who want the past to remain there. Can they shed light on the secrets moving in the shadows? Christian Romantic Suspense: Necessary Proof (Sonoma series #4.1, n

Just another day at youth group

My Christian contemporary romance, Single Sashimi , includes some of the wilder tales from my and my husband’s stints as youth staff workers at our church. The Steven character in the book is actually the same Steven who’s the associate pastor and youth group leader at our church now, since I wrote Single Sashimi when he was still in youth group. :) He’s a young man in his late twenties (maybe early thirties?), and he’s full of great ideas and lots of energy. On one particular Saturday, my husband and I were at youth group as usual. Steven had bought a tug of war rope—the really long, thick kind that looks like it belongs on a sea trawler. The opening game for the kids was, of course, tug of war. Then we came indoors for a three-song worship set. After worship, we usually split up into Junior High and High School for lessons, but this time Steven had an idea: “Okay guys, we’re going to have a tug of war--staff versus kids. If you guys win, we’ll ditch the lesson and go out t

Tabi socks, part deux

Captain's Log, Stardate 07.25.2008 (If you're on Ravelry, friend me! I'm camytang.) I made tabi socks again! (At the bottom of the pattern is the calculation for the toe split if you're not using the same weight yarn that I did for this pattern (fingering). I also give an example from when I used worsted weight yarn with this pattern.) I used Opal yarn, Petticoat colorway. It’s a finer yarn than my last pair of tabi socks, so I altered the pattern a bit. Okay, so here’s my first foray into giving a knitting pattern. Camy’s top-down Tabi Socks I’m assuming you already know the basics of knitting socks. If you’re a beginner, here are some great tutorials: Socks 101 How to Knit Socks The Sock Knitter’s Companion A video of turning the heel Sock Knitting Tips Yarn: I have used both fingering weight and worsted weight yarn with this pattern. You just change the number of cast on stitches according to your gauge and the circumference of your ankle. Th