Author Note: Under His Protection is the ninth book in the Red Stone Security series but can be read completely as a stand-alone.
“You are going to love what I got her,” Julieta whispered to Lizzy.
They were sitting next to each other at Mina’s bridal shower. Mina Hollingsworth, soon-to-be Mina Blue. The sweet artist was marrying former pro-football player/former Marine Alexander Blue and she was one of the nicest people Julieta had ever met.
“I take it you went off the registry,” Lizzy whispered back before taking a sip of her mimosa.
“Just a bit.” She held back her grin as Mina picked up her next gift. The black and white damask bag with a bright pink stripe across the top was distinctively from Julieta’s store.
“I know who this is from,” Mina said, already blushing as she delicately pulled the paper stuffing out the top. Her face split into a wide smile as she pulled out the sheer white, delicate lace lingerie babydoll halter. The back had ruffled layers to create a small bustle and above that in bright pink hand-done stitching were the words ‘property of Alex’. Mina’s fiancé might have mentioned something to Julieta about this.
As Mina pulled it out and saw the back she started laughing, her cheeks flushing an even darker shade of pink. “Did Alex ask you to do this?” she asked.
Julieta just shrugged and pursed her lips together as she fought a smile.
Mina turned it around for the twenty other women to see. Everyone started howling and talking about how much their significant others would want them to get one. Julieta ignored the small pang in her chest. For a bridal shower this one was very small and considering how wealthy Mina was, she was surprised it wasn’t bigger. But maybe she shouldn’t be. The woman was incredibly picky about who she was friends with—because she wasn’t sure who she could trust—and she had guards around her most of the time. All the women at the shower were either married or engaged, except two of Mina’s friends from California.
Being single had never bothered Julieta before. The last three years she’d been working like mad to get her business off the ground and now that it had and she was doing well, she had more time on her hands. She had a lot of friends and a huge, loving family but the truth was, she was lonely. When she’d first started her business she’d actually had a serious boyfriend. They’d been together the last two years of college, but once she’d started working long hours he’d decided he couldn’t handle it. He’d said he wanted her to be successful and would support her, but in the end it had all been lip service. She was glad she’d found out before they’d taken the next step, but it still stung when she thought about how badly things had ended between them.
She couldn’t remember the last date she’d gone on and unfortunately the last two months she’d spent fantasizing about a certain sexy Red Stone Security employee she kept seeing because of her friendship with Mina. But she couldn’t get a read on the man. He was always so tight-lipped and gave brooding stares when she was around. She was pretty sure he didn’t even like her. Not to mention Mina had mentioned that he was a total player on more than one occasion.
Which made her fantasies even more ridiculous. She wasn’t into playboys or bad boys. So why did everything about Ivan make her wake up and take notice?
“Is that from your new line?” Lizzy demanded, shifting against the loveseat in the expansive living room that overlooked the Miami bay as Mina told everyone to go grab food and drinks.
Huge windows and a bright October day made for a gorgeous view and natural lighting as the women broke up and started to eat and mingle.
“Minus the personalized stitching, yes. And yes, I’ve already saved one for you. I can’t believe you had a baby five months ago. You look amazing,” she said in mock disgust.
“Porter keeps me busy.” Lizzy’s smile turned mischievous which only made that pang in Julieta’s chest expand.
She shoved down those feelings as best she could. “Seriously, do you need to remind me how long it’s been since I’ve had sex…” She trailed off as Ivan appeared from out of nowhere.
Wearing his standard dark suit he looked imposing and too sexy for his own good. She gritted her teeth at his timing because she was pretty sure he’d heard her. He so did not need to know she had no sex life. He nodded at both of them politely. For a brief moment she thought he’d approached to speak to her and her heart rate increased by about a thousand percent. That lasted for all of two seconds. The thought of him approaching her just to chat was as ridiculous as her fantasies about him.
“Hey Ivan, where’ve you been hiding?” Lizzy asked casually.
Since they both worked for Red Stone, though in different capacities, the two were friends. It shouldn’t make Julieta jealous that Lizzy, one of her oldest, happily married friends, was so comfortable with Ivan. But it kind of did.