It was a very classy restaurant, newly opened that served a high end seafood menu. Alexandra walked into the dining area done in welcoming design and heaved a sigh when she saw the friendly face send her a happy wave.
She made her way through the spacious tables and took her seat next to her best friend, Malia whom she’d known since middle school. They embraced quickly and then Malia hissed, “Now who is that gorgeous hunk?”
Alexandra stiffened, drew in a slow breath and then turned to glance over her shoulder. Cane had taken a seat just a couple of tables away. Even in the restaurant half-filled with other guests, she could make him out with his clear-cut good looks and impeccable attire. Inconspicuous to others perhaps, but never to her, thought Alexandra with an angry sigh. He didn’t look their way but she was certain he could feel their gaze on him.
“I saw you both come out of the same car so I know he’s with you. I just don’t know why,” Malia murmured, sitting forward, her dark brown eyes dancing. She was the epitome of the pretty full-figured woman comfortable in her own skin. She had on a wrap-around silk dress which showed off her very ample assets. Her expression was full of curiosity and Alexandra pursed her lips as she quelled her deep annoyance.
“That’s my bodyguard. Cane Hutchinson.”
Malia’s eyes widened, and her eyebrows rode way up. “Since when?”
“Since two hours ago,” Alexandra muttered. The waiter appeared and courteously handed them menus. Alexandra barely scanned through the lines, still far from happy with the way her day was turning out. She gave her best friend a brief rundown on the new state of events since she arrived at the house in answer to her father’s summons. Alexandra Duke officially now had a personal bodyguard to follow her around 24/7 because her father thought she’d be harmed or kidnapped by some mean, disgruntled corporate competitor. How screwed up was that?
She posed the question to Malia who looked rueful. “Well, it is a cut-throat world out there,” Malia said with a shrug. “I think your father would know better about the kinds of people he’s dealing with. I heard about a magnate who had some employees laid off and they got pissed off enough to try and take down his wife and adolescent twin sons. It was all over the news. The perps got caught before they could get away with it though. The fact is, maybe it’s best to be safe than sorry.”
“Well, I’m already sorry if that’s what you mean,” Alexandra said angrily. “I thought I’d distanced myself from my father and his issues. I moved out, got my life on track. Now I’m doing my Masters at FIT and on my way to realizing my childhood dreams of designing wedding dressings with the top fashion houses. I really don’t need any of this boardroom melodrama.”
Alexandra cut off when she saw Malia was hardly listening but craning her neck beyond Alexandra’s shoulder, obviously still checking Cane out. For goodness’ sake!
“Really?” Alexandra quipped, staring at her friend who suddenly pouted, sitting up and removing her gaze from the bodyguard sitting calmly a few tables away as he glanced through the menu in his hand.
“Hey, girl, don’t look at me. If I’d known you’d be showing up with Bruce freaking Wayne, I’d have been better prepared. I mean, damn. You know I have a thing for those brooding John Statham types. And this guy is hot enough to make even a Greek god feel inadequate.”
“Malia, he’s my bodyguard,” Alexandra reminded her exasperatedly as she flung down her menu. “What part of that doesn’t spell off-limits to you?”
Malia smiled mischievously. “He might be off-limits, but you can’t stop a sister from fantasizing. Imagining getting rescued in those big, strong arms...”
“Just forget it,” Alexandra snapped, looking away with an angry shake of her head. Malia was no help at all. Everything in life was just one big joke to her. No one would guess she was a highly qualified psychiatric nurse; she acted and looked so hip and cool and never seemed to take life seriously. But once she was at work, she was all professional.
Right now she was acting just like a woman and Alexandra couldn’t really blame her. Alexandra had already made the observation that she was stuck with a very sexy, possibly irresistible bodyguard. Though why on earth she’d think she’d ever be in a position to need to resist him was beyond her. Alexandra was never going to be in any of those cliché situations regarding a female and her bodyguard. She was too grown for that.
“Can we just order, please?” Alexandra finally said, done with the whole bodyguard topic. For now at least. Malia and Alexandra always met at least once a week for dinner at any nice restaurant they felt like trying out. This place had come highly recommended with its soft, subtly lit dining room and slanted glass windows running the length of one wall. The food was ocean fresh and she’d heard of the stand-out shellfish ravioli, buttered leeks and lobster sauce, angler and lobster pie with button mushroom and mashed potato as well as the yellow fin tuna tartare with lime and chili. She looked up in surprise when the waiter appeared and Malia proceeded to make a robust order.
“I’m on a seafood diet,” Malia explained lightly as the waiter walked away minutes later. “See food and eat it, I mean.”
Despite herself, Alexandra chuckled. She loved hanging out with Malia. Malia Wade was good people; they’d gone to the same schools and stuck together through thick and thin. Malia’s parents had died when she was just a kid, and she’d been brought up by her aunt and uncle. Wanting to be independent early on in life, she’d gone straight into nursing school, qualified within a few years and now, had a successful career at barely twenty-five. She was the one person in her sea of friends that Alexandra could really trust. With a father as rich as hers, Alexandra had always been able to tell who was with her just for the fortune she represented as Donel Duke’s daughter. Even romance had taken a back seat after a few failed attempts at finding love. It was hard to find genuine feelings when all anyone saw when they looked at her were dollar signs. So she worked very hard to keep her real identity on a low profile. She never offered information about herself especially when meeting new people. How her father could assume she could be in any danger was still beyond her. She shivered slightly as she recalled the briefing she’d received from the man called Noah Preston who ran the security operations Cane worked with.
She was to have two guards stationed at her place to watch the house, while Cane was to be her personal bodyguard living with her in close quarters. After dinner, she would be returning home where the two guards would already be found waiting. Then she had to worry about having a man in the house with her, for heaven knew how long. Alexandra bit on her lip, and not for the first time, wished herself having someone else’s life. Just anyone. Any normal person on the street that didn’t have to worry about such things as being safe from imagined corporate kingpins out to get her.
And then Alexandra felt instantly guilty for thinking that. Many people would be grateful to have the kind of life she lived. A loving, generous father who’d made sure she went to the best schools, had the best opportunities in life. Holidays in exotic places when she was growing up. All the good things money could buy. But she still wished she could hold on to at least one aspect of her life she had been so sure she’d won for herself when she’d reached of age. Her independence, her privacy. All of that was shot to hell with this new addition to her existence: a sinfully gorgeous bodyguard called Cane who wasn’t going to just go away no matter how much she wished it...