Authors: Kristi Avalon
The Bodyguard’s Baby
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Cover Design: Kim Van Meter
Editor: Mary Ann Chulick
The Bodyguard’s Baby, Copyright © 2014 Kristi Avalon. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means.
For my friend Lindsey Simone. Thank you for all the years of our friendship. Having you in my life is a Godsend.
Special thanks to Rhonda and Barbara for your help creating the summary for this story. Kristine, as always, your brainstorming help is amazing.
“I know he’s the perfect male specimen. But I can’t have his baby—he’s my bodyguard.” Lindsey Graham blew across the surface of her tea, gazing out the window through the wispy tendrils steaming from her mug. Her bodyguard, Slone Rowan, grilled dinner out on the back patio amidst a foot of powdery mountain snow.
He more than fit her criteria.
Six-foot-two, with a strong, handsome profile and misty gray eyes that would nicely complement her own turquoise colored eyes, plus a physique sculpted like a bodybuilder’s, Slone easily rivaled any of the options the clinic had offered her.
“Who cares if he’s your bodyguard?” Her friend Marissa Denning flipped her black hair over her shoulder, taking a sip of her burgundy wine. “Considering everything you’re going through to get pregnant, you may as well choose some spectacular DNA.”
“True.” Lindsey sighed. “I can’t argue with you there.”
When Lindsey was sixteen, a team of doctors had diagnosed her
with severe polycystic ovarian syndrome. Years of scar tissue had built up, and would continue to build, reducing her chances of conceiving with every year that passed. One doctor had recommended she try to become pregnant in her early twenties. Since she’d recently turned twenty-five, she’d told herself that once she became relatively settled she wouldn’t wait for nature, or fate, to take its course.
As a second grade teacher, she adored children. And she wanted to have a baby more than anything in this world.
With the inheritance from her father to fall back on, and her guaranteed hiring in the nearby school system in January, when the current second grade teacher went on her maternity leave, Lindsey had recognized this was as close to
as she’d ever be. Her sister Kylie and future brother-in-law Cade had paid the rent on her Denver, Colorado, townhouse through next year.
A house she shared with Slone, and had
therefore come to think of him as her roommate. Cade and Kylie had insisted Slone become Lindsey’s bodyguard, after a career criminal had targeted Lindsey and held her for ransom at gunpoint in an attempt to draw Kylie out of hiding. A terrifying ordeal, which
had solidified her resolve to become pregnant as soon as possible. Seeing her life flash before her eyes, and wondering if she’d see the next sunrise, had instilled a renewed determination to have a baby before the twists and turns of life threw another roadblock into her hopeful plans.
Toward that end, she’d seen a local fertility doctor a week after she moved to Denver. He’d agreed with her physician’s recommendation to plan a pregnancy sooner than later.
Today marked the fifth week into her initial course of fertility drugs, leading up to her first attempt at artificial insemination. But she still hadn’t decided on the obvious other half of the pregnancy equation—the male donor.
Her friend Marissa had come over to help her solve her dilemma. Or at least narrow down the options. They’d met when Lindsey had substitute taught in her classroom.
Marissa swirled the wine in her glass. “Slone used to be a Navy SEAL, right?”
Lindsey nodded and swallowed a sip of her tea. “That’s what my sister told me.”
“So he’s loyal, patriotic, and protective by nature. He won’t leave a man behind, or woman, so he’s responsible. He’s obviously smart and tenacious, since no average Joe gets to that rank without serious skills. And he can follow directions. Now that’s not easy to find.”
“If he’s so great, why don’t you go out with him?” Lindsey asked.
Marissa shook her head. “He’s too clean cut for me. I like the bad boy type. Besides, he’s going to be the father of
“No, he’s not—”
“Dinner’s ready,” Slone called out, stomping snow off his boots.
As plates rattled, she and Marissa joined him in the kitchen that she’d painted lime green
earlier that week, with the owner’s permission. Slone stood at the counter, serving platter in one hand, grilling spatula in the other.
Follows directions, hmmm?
She exhaled. “Slone, would you please—”
“Take off my shoes,” he retorted in a sing-song tone. He toed off his boots. “If you didn’t walk around barefoot in the dead of winter, it wouldn’t be a problem.”
Lindsey lifted her chin righteously. “Human beings roamed the earth for millions of years barefoot. It’s our natural state.”
“That was before they invented the wheel.” Slone transferred the grilled portion of their meal onto the plates, sucking a trickle of steak juice off the pad of his thumb. For some reason Lindsey found herself fixating on the gesture, and his nicely shaped lips. “Now we have cool things like the Internet and GPS. And shoes.”
Marissa snorted, her navy-blue eyes bright with amusement.
Annoyed, Lindsey snapped off a paper towel to mop up the puddles. “It’s like cleaning up after a puppy.”
“Hey,” Slone objected. “I’m mostly housetrained.”
“And he cooks,” Marissa said. “Extra points there.”
“This isn’t a competition.” Lindsey pitched the crumpled wet towel in the trash. “There are no points.”
“Says you.” Slone grabbed three foil-wrapped baked potatoes out of the oven without bothering to use a mitt. “Didn’t you see the bulletin board behind the basement door? I’m keeping track.”
“Who’s winning?” Marissa asked, highly entertained.
Slone arched an eyebrow. “Who do you think?”
“Technically it doesn’t matter.” Marissa shrugged. “The woman always wins.”
“Isn’t that the truth,” he said on a long-suffering sigh.
“Oh, please.” Lindsey rolled her eyes and set the bowl of salad she’d chopped earlier onto the center of the dining room table. “Like you have it so rough.”
He winked. “Right back at ya, princess.”
Arms spread, Lindsey turned to Marissa. “See? This is why it would never work.”
Slone’s head snapped up. “What would never work?”
“Nothing. Absolutely nothing.” Lindsey sent Marissa a meaningful look to keep her silent.
“I don’t find sarcasm a flaw,” Marissa said.
“I do,” Lindsey muttered, standing with her back to Slone so he couldn’t hear.
While she appreciated dry humor, and didn’t mind occasional fun poked at her expense, Lindsey found Slone’s continuous
mockery irritating. He didn’t appear to take anything seriously, which seemed odd for a man in the sobering business of protecting people’s lives.
In the six weeks they’d lived under the same roof, they hadn’t shared a single in-depth conversation, not one heart-to-heart talk. Only general surface discussions and basic civility—and his sarcasm.
They mostly kept to themselves. While they knew each other’s habits and patterns, she didn’t know his goals or dreams. Although she didn’t mention that detail to Marissa, since the woman would likely say it made Slone as good a candidate for baby daddy as the other men she’d never even met. She wasn’t sure why Marissa kept pressing the subject of Slone anyway. Today wasn’t the first time she’d hinted that Lindsey should consider him as a…contributor. He certainly came recommended by her sister, so Slone would find no detractors from that quarter.
Lindsey wondered, setting silverware on the table, along with a tub of butter plus the pepper and salt shakers.
Wouldn’t it be convenient,
and less clinical, to let Slone do the honors?
No, that defeated the purpose. She didn’t want to go through this with someone she knew, even remotely.
Emotions could get tangled and feelings hurt in the process. Better to borrow from a complete stranger than to risk a man forming an unexpected attachment or developing a misguided sense of responsibility. This was all her choice, her personal decision, and she had her reasons. Slone might prove less of a convenience and more of a complication. The fertility experience was confusing and complex enough already.
She and Marissa sat facing each other, with Slone at the head of the table. Offhand, she noticed he seemed suited to the patriarchal role, born to sit at the head of the table. If she had a son, she’d want him to have that same quiet, calm certitude. That confident sense of himself, knowing he could walk into any room and handle any situation.
Suddenly, she wanted to know what had made Slone turn out the way he had. Were his admirable qualities innate? Or some combination of nature versus nurture? Or each of those things in specific measures to create the strong, handsome, capable man who was her bodyguard?
Moving toward them, he placed each plate in front of them according to their individual preference. “Steak, medium-well,” he said, handing Marissa her meal. “Steak, rare.” He waited to set his plate down until he’d served Lindsey. “And…whatever the hell you call this glop.” Then he settled in to eat. “I can’t believe they have the nerve to say that’s a burger.”
Immediately, she retracted her former thoughts of admiration. “At least I’m not clogging my arteries with disgusting saturated fat. Not to mention the horrendous, inhumane conditions that go unchecked in the meat processing industry.”
He sawed a thick hunk from his steak and proceeded to chew with immense satisfaction. “God, that’s good.”
Lindsey smeared mustard on her top bun and pressed it onto the slim
“A perfect medium-well,” Marissa said. “Thank you for cooking, Slone.”
“Someone needs to cook real food around here.” He gestured at Lindsey with his fork. “I don’t see how you justify paying nine bucks for that fake crap. Why not open a can of chick peas, mash them, throw chopped vegetables on top and be done with it? What you’re eating doesn’t even deserve a bun.”
Heat collected in her cheeks. “I’ve been a vegetarian for ten years.” She had no idea why she felt compelled to justify her choices to him, but she didn’t appreciate his dismissive attitude. “It’s an extremely healthy diet, with millions of studies to back it up.” She happily chomped her veggie burger for good measure, and swallowed before adding, “And without the guilt of consuming a living creature that suffered to satisfy my heathen taste buds.”
He licked his lips. “So you haven’t tasted any meat in ten years?”
He shook his head. “Poor guys.”
Marissa unsuccessfully hid a smile behind her hand.
Lindsey kicked him under the table.
When his smile broadened, and she heard a rumble of laughter in his chest, she decided to ignore him. She asked Marissa about some of the other teachers she’d be working alongside in the second grade hallway. Marissa gave her pointers about differing teaching methods and who employed which ones.
Mostly finished with her meal, Marissa touched her napkin to her lips and turned to Slone. “I have a question. When Lindsey starts teaching full-time, will you have to sit in class
with her all day?”
“Man, I hope not.”
On the receiving end of another swift kick, he flinched.
“I’m not being a jerk. I just don’t want to disrupt the classroom atmosphere. Having a strange man in the room won’t help things. I doubt parents would be all that happy about their child’s teacher requiring a bodyguard.”
Lindsey took a sip of water, mulling over the predicament. “Since I’ve been volunteering at the library once a week, it’s not too conspicuous with you staying in your car in the parking lot, dropping in occasionally to check on me. But you’re right, once I’m assigned a classroom of kids, having a revolving door for you won’t work.”
“I also suspect,” Marissa said, “Principal Jordan might reconsider hiring you if he thinks any minute you could be attacked by thugs from the Ramos drug gang bent on revenge.”
The veggie patty turned into a hard lump in Lindsey’s stomach. She glanced at Slone. “I thought once Soren Security decided there was no threat, you could go on to another more pressing assignment.”
He shrugged. “I haven’t heard a word from Adam or Cade Soren. That means I’m still on duty. For as long as I’m required.”
Funny, the thought of Slone being
as though he were some necessary commodity like toothpaste or toilet paper, didn’t sit well with Lindsey. He was more than hired muscle. He was a person. A very attractive man, who probably had a life beyond her, and certainly had better things to do than sit in his truck at the school while she volunteered, or sleep alone in the room down the hall from hers night after night. Even though he grated on her last nerve at times, Slone deserved some type of relief from the tedium. It seemed unnecessary, and overkill, to have him detailing her twenty-four/seven.
“I’ll talk to my sister.” Lindsey decided to step in on his behalf. “She can convince Cade to let you back off a little. At least during the hours I’m at work.”
“Not part of the arrangement,” Slone said.
Lindsey blinked. “What do you mean?”
He crossed his arms, looking every inch the formidable bodyguard. “This isn’t a part-time gig. It’s already written into the contract. I’m all or nothing.”