He’ll do anything to protect her…but she doesn’t want saving.
As an heiress from a prominent family, Mina knows the pain of living under a microscope. Which is why she loves her sleepy Key West home where nobody knows her name. She’s determined to make her way without being coddled—and no mugging is going to change that.
Former Marine and newest Red Stone Security employee Alexander Blue has seen enough bloodshed to last a lifetime—or ten. He’s ready for civilian life, but when he sees a mysterious brunette attacked by a mugger, his need to protect kicks into overdrive. Mina, the sensual artist he saved, brings him home and bandages him up, but her gaze cuts clear to his soul. An intense connection isn’t all Blue feels—there was something strange about that mugging; he’s convinced Mina is in danger and needs his protection. Just one problem: Mina doesn’t want saving.
Mina threw her elbow back, ignoring the pain as she connected with the man’s ribs. He grunted, but barely seemed affected. Another shot of raw fear slammed through her as his grip tightened. She started thrashing around and the man in front of her began to advance but suddenly froze, his eyes growing wide as he growled a curse. Then he raced past them and suddenly she was falling. Scrambling to hold on to something, anything to stabilize her, her fingers skimmed the nearby car before she fell onto the cobblestone road.
Despite the pain that ricocheted up her spine, she rolled over and pushed up, expecting to have to defend herself. Instead she saw one huge man fighting with three—three!—in the middle of the quiet road. He slammed his fist against the jaw of the man who’d covered her mouth. Even from this distance she could hear the crack. The man with the knife lunged at him but he kicked out at him like some sort of ninja, throwing her would-be attacker back a couple feet. Though it felt like forever, she knew only seconds had passed as they fought.
And she had to get help.
Scrambling back in between the cars toward the sidewalk, relief punched through her when she saw her purse near a wooden privacy fence that lined this side of the alley. Half of her belongings were strewn across the pavement, including her cell phone. Snagging it off the ground, she started to dial 9-1-1 when the sound of squealing tires made her head jerk up. A dark SUV with tinted windows was racing out the other end of the alley, thankfully in the opposite direction. But the big man who’d come to her rescue was lying on the ground.
Phone in hand she raced down the sidewalk, fighting panic that he’d been injured or worse. Maybe the guy with the knife had stabbed him… As she reached him, he groaned and shoved up to a sitting position.
“Are you okay?” he rasped out as he glanced around, diligently taking in their surroundings.
“I should be asking you that.” Kneeling next to him, she reached out to touch his temple. “Thank you so much for what you did…” A small trickle of blood trailed down the side of his face. “Crap, you’re bleeding.”
“It’s nothing,” he muttered, swiping it clean, but didn’t move away from her.
“Are you hurt anywhere else?” She scanned him, taking in the casual pants and loose T-shirt. That was when she saw the gun peeking out from underneath his shirt which had been shoved up. It was secured to the side of his pants by a small holster. Mina jerked to a halt at the sight of the weapon. Her throat constricted, but before she could move, he pushed up to a standing position and held out a hand for her.
“I have a permit and I’m fine, but we need to call the police. Whoever those guys were, they weren’t just out to mug you. They shot me with a fucking bean bag round.” He groaned as he pulled her to her feet.
At five feet eleven, she was taller than a lot of people so she was surprised when she stood in front of him and realized he had to be well over six feet. And he was really broad too. There couldn’t be an inch of fat on the guy. And why was she noticing that anyway? Maybe she had hit her head. “Wait, what?” His words finally registered as she tore her gaze from his wide chest to his concerned face. “A bean bag? What are you talking about?” And why had he even jumped in to help her like that? She wanted to ask but was struggling to remain calm.
He nodded at the ground and stepped past her. She watched as he bent down and when he came back up with something in his hand she was even more confused at what she saw.
He held it up for her to inspect. “They shot this at me using a shotgun with some sort of modifier on it. I’ve never seen something like that before. I barely heard the release.”
“You mean they shot you with something police use in riot controls?” That was beyond weird. But also deadly. She’d read an article about the kind of damage those things could do if they hit someone in the head or ribs. “Where did they hit you?”
“Barely clipped my shoulder. Trust me, I’m fine,” he said as he scanned her from head to foot. “Did they hurt you? Did they say anything?”
A shiver raced through her as the reality of what could have happened slammed into her all at once. “They didn’t hurt me, but they would have.” As thoughts of how truly horrific tonight could have gone settled in her mind, another shiver took hold and soon she was full-on shaking, her teeth chattering even as she tried to speak. There had been three of them. She hadn’t even seen the third until that fight. And there’d been a driver, so that was four.
“Shit,” he muttered, pulling her into a tight embrace. The sudden hold should have shocked her but she was barely hanging on after what had just happened. “You’re okay.” A big, surprisingly gentle hand, soothingly stroked down her back, helping steady out her breathing and slow her heart rate.
Despite the fact that she was standing in the middle of the street—where the hell was anyone else?—with a stranger, she felt oddly safe in his arms. Still clutching her phone, she wrapped her arms around him and buried her face against his chest. He smelled fresh, like clean linen with just a hint of a spicy aftershave. She struggled to find her voice, but couldn’t make her throat work as it tightened.
“Don’t try to talk just yet,” he murmured, slowly walking them until they reached the sidewalk. “Step up.”
She did as he said then took a deep, shuddering breath as she stepped out of his embrace. “I’m okay. Sort of.” Enough to talk anyway. “Again, thank you for saving me. If you hadn’t been here…” Shuddering again, she trailed off. She so didn’t need to say the words aloud. The images were already vivid enough in her crazy imagination. “Are you a cop or something?”
He shook his head before glancing around. “No, but we need to call them now. And get you out of this alley. I don’t like how cut off it is from everything.”
She wasn’t going to argue with getting the hell out of there. “My purse,” she blurted, nodding down the sidewalk where the contents of her bag were strewn about.
He fell into step beside her as they headed for it. “What’s your name?”
“Alexander, but you can call me Blue. It’s my last name.”
Despite the remnants of fear clinging to her insides like kudzu, she let out a short laugh. “Blue?”
He lifted those broad shoulders, still not looking at her as he scanned the alley. God, she wanted to punch herself for walking down here alone. The city was relatively safe and this was a great neighborhood, but seeing it through a stranger’s eyes, she realized how truly quiet and cut off this street was. There weren’t any shops on it so no one had any reason to be down here unless they were cutting through. Like she’d stupidly done. That’s what she got for getting complacent. Back in California she’d never have done something like this.
Of course there she would never have been allowed anywhere without armed freaking guards. She raked a shaky hand through her hair as they reached her belongings. “Listen…I don’t want to call the cops.”