Since I Fell for You by Bella Andre

  She nearly swooned. The computer geek who had never even come close to falling into a man's arms was right on the verge of toppling straight toward his big, broad chest. And maybe, if her brothers were finally ready to see her happy with a great guy they were friends with, it would be okay if she did.

  "Why are you here, then?" she asked, barely able to keep the breathlessness from her voice.

  His dark eyes held hers. "I'm your new bodyguard."


  "My new bodyguard?" Suzanne gaped at Roman. "That's impossible."

  He wasn't surprised by her reaction. Her wide eyes and shocked gasp made perfect sense given that her brothers had hired him to protect her without informing her of their decision...until now.

  The only thing Roman was surprised by tonight was his reaction to her.

  The second he'd walked into the gallery, he'd noticed her. Not just because she was a stunningly beautiful woman whom any man would take a second hungry look at in the black jeans and T-shirt that clung to her curves in the sexiest way possible. But simply because every cell in his body had gone on alert just from being in the same room with her.

  Careful not to give his reaction away, he hadn't let himself stare. His clients had often commented that he must have eyes on all sides of his head, because he never missed a thing. Nights like this, he was especially glad for that skill. It meant he could watch her without anyone knowing it.

  Her brothers had told him that Suzanne was a brilliant software developer who was running into trouble lately and was too trusting for her own good. The research he'd done online had filled in the blanks on just how successful she was. But it was what everyone had left out that knocked Roman sideways.

  He'd been with plenty of attractive women, enough that he should have been able to keep himself together tonight. Only, he couldn't remember the last time a woman had seemed so sweet and so sensual at the same time.

  Not to mention as far off-limits as any woman had ever been.

  First off, she was his new client, and the boundaries between bodyguard and client were sacrosanct. Second--and equally important--her brothers would kill him for so much as looking at her wrong. And he couldn't blame them.

  The last thing he would want was for a little sister, if he'd had one, to end up with a guy like him.

  Throughout the handful of minutes that he'd been talking with Alec and Harry in the gallery, Roman had been silently reminding himself that he was a consummate professional who was trained to shut off his emotions and do his job. Especially when it came to women. He'd never been the slightest bit tempted by one of his female clients, even the ones who had paraded naked in front of him to try to get him to bend his solid-steel rule about maintaining a professional relationship.

  By the time he finally let himself look directly at Suzanne, he'd been certain his steel mask was back in place. But then she'd smiled...

  One bright, beautiful smile was all it took for the bottom to drop out of his ironclad control.

  Taking this job is a bad idea.

  The thought had hit him hard, right in the solar plexus. Hard enough that he'd considered bowing out of the job. Unfortunately, that was right when Harry had said, "Suzanne's safety means everything to us. We can't thank you enough for doing this."

  He couldn't let his friends down just because he was awed by her beauty. And he didn't like the idea of letting her down either. Not when, from everything he'd learned so far, she needed his services more than she wanted to admit.

  Right now, however, she was clearly pissed beyond measure. Steam was all but coming out of her ears as she glared at him. Wanting to head a public family argument off at the pass, he suggested, "Why don't the four of us go somewhere more private to discuss this?"

  She all but snarled, "No." And then she shut him down completely by turning to her brothers. "What the hell are you two thinking? Did you really think you could just up and hire a bodyguard for me and that I'd say, Okay, whatever you think is best, big brothers?"

  Roman was impressed by the way she went toe to toe with her brothers. She was no shrinking violet, that was for sure. Still, that didn't mean that she wasn't in need of protection. Even the strongest people needed backup sometimes.

  Neither Alec nor Harry looked the least bit surprised by her response. And it didn't look like they were going to back down any time soon either, as Alec said, "We know what's been happening with the countless calls and the attacks on your servers. Who knows when it will escalate to an attack on you? You've got to be smart about this, Suz."

  "Smart?" If Roman thought she'd been furious before, he hadn't seen the half of it. "You think I'm not being smart?" It was as though Alec had just thrown down the ultimate gauntlet. She poked a finger of each hand into both brothers' chests. "You're the ones who are missing brain cells if you think I can't take care of myself."

  After having worked with Alec's company a dozen times on security detail for the rich and famous people who rented Alec's private planes, Roman knew his friend could be a hothead. Despite that, Alec was the first billionaire with whom Roman had ever been friends. He was cocky, but he wasn't an ass. In fact, he was surprisingly normal, for all his money and family connections with movie stars and pro athletes.

  Roman had grown up hanging with the lowest guys on the totem pole. Now, though he'd carved out a lucrative career working for the highest ones, he'd always be a fighter kid from the Bronx. At events like this, he often had to stop himself from tugging at a tie that felt like it was on too tight.

  "Suz," Harry said, looking a little guilty, "we didn't do this to upset you."

  Roman had first met Harry at one of Alec's parties a couple of years ago and knew he tended to be more measured in his approach to life than Alec. That didn't mean he was a wimp, though. On the contrary, Harry had skills he'd learned from his hands-on study of medieval combat that put regular fighters to shame.

  "We know you can take care of yourself," Harry continued, "but wouldn't it make you feel better to know there was someone looking out for you while you get to the bottom of whoever has been harassing you and why?"

  "I already feel great about things, thank you very much. And we all know that you haven't hired him"--she hooked an irritated thumb in Roman's direction--"to make me feel better. You hired him to make yourselves feel better. I've told you a million times that I'm handling things. I don't need you making decisions about my life. And I definitely don't need a bodyguard!"

  She spun on her boot heel and headed for the door. Alec and Harry started to follow her, but Roman stopped them. "I'll take care of things from here."

  Harry still looked conflicted about the way they'd handled it, but if anything, Alec looked more convinced than ever that his sister needed a bodyguard. "We know you will."

  Suzanne was fast, but Roman had professional practice at chasing people down. By the time he got outside, she was burning up the sidewalk, so angry that strangers were having to jump out of her way so that they didn't get mowed down. People made bad decisions when they were angry, something Roman knew all too well. Somehow, he needed to make her see that having him around wouldn't be a bad thing.

  He had nearly caught up when she stopped on a dime and spun around so quickly that Roman found himself nose to nose with her.

  "Stop following me!" Her eyes were spitting fire. "Weren't you listening? I don't need you to watch over m--"

  The taxi came out of nowhere, speeding around the corner so fast that the driver momentarily lost control, aiming straight for them on the sidewalk. Roman pulled Suzanne into his arms and threw her as far off the sidewalk as he possibly could before leaping in the same direction and covering her body with his so that they were pressed tightly to the brick wall.

  The driver finally hit the brakes when the vehicle was a hairsbreadth from Roman's left heel.

  As close to Suzanne as he could be outside of a bedroom, Roman could feel her heart pounding as fast as his. Her chest was heaving, but she wasn't crying th
e way anyone else would have been.

  "Thank God."

  He couldn't hear her words clearly at first. Couldn't possibly process them with blood rushing like class-five whitewater in his ears. But when he heard the taxi shift into reverse and pull away from them, he realized that the danger had passed.

  Which meant he needed to let her go.

  He'd protected his clients with his body dozens of times. But he'd never been so reluctant to move away from one of them. Never felt a desperate need to run his hands over every inch of their bodies, head to toe, to make sure they were truly all right.

  "Suzanne." He finally drew back enough so that he could look down at her face. "Are you okay?"

  "I am." She swallowed hard as she blinked up at him with eyes so clear and pretty that they would have stolen his breath away if he'd had any left after the near accident. "Because of you."

  How, he wondered, was she managing to smell like a spring morning in the middle of a dirty Manhattan sidewalk? And why the hell was he letting himself even notice something like that about one of his clients? A completely reluctant client, no less.

  Roman never liked taking on jobs this way. It was always better to be hired directly by the client rather than by a third party. But at the same time, he understood her brothers' concerns. Keeping Suzanne safe was the most important thing--even if it meant a little extra work persuading her to see things clearly.

  He wasn't at all glad that the taxi had almost taken them out on the sidewalk. There might be a silver lining, however, if she was now convinced that he could keep her out of harm's way, regardless of what kind of harm it might be.

  He was just taking a step back when she put her hand on his arm. "What about you? Are you okay?" When she licked her lips, he couldn't look away from her glistening mouth. "The taxi came so close. I was sure that you would be--"

  "I'm good." The two words came out more gruffly than he intended as he made himself put a good couple of feet between them. It would be a fine line with Suzanne--to stay close enough to protect her no matter what happened, while never getting close enough to lose control. "So now you see why having me around is a good thing."

  Just moments after they'd nearly been crushed by a taxi, the last thing he expected her to do was to snort. "Thank you for saving my life. I totally owe you for that. But it was just a freak accident. No matter what you or my brothers think, I still don't need a bodyguard." She pushed away from the brick wall. "Good night, Roman."

  Though her brothers hadn't prepared him for her stunning beauty, they had prepared him for her stubborn streak. And from his research, he understood that trait had undoubtedly helped her build a technology company that was growing at a rapid pace.

  "My night's not over yet," he informed her. "I'm going to have to walk home with you."

  She didn't so much as break stride. "Free country. If you want to walk on the same sidewalk in the same direction, be my guest."

  He never got personal with clients, and always made sure to keep his emotions out of it, but he could barely stifle a grin. Her brothers had told him she was feisty--but they'd left out just how likable she was. Problem was, he didn't think she was going to be much happier with any of them when she found out where he was now living. Knowing he needed to break that news to her took away his almost-smile in a flash.

  Deciding that blunt was his best option, he said, "I'll be staying in the apartment next to yours while I'm working with you."

  Again, she stopped dead on the sidewalk. For a few long seconds, she didn't say anything, just stared at him as if he'd grown three heads and each of them was speaking a different language.

  "I'm going to kill my brothers." Each word was precise. And icy cold. When she turned around, he knew she must be planning to head back to the gallery to hunt them down.

  "Suzanne," he said as he moved to block her path, "I understand you don't want me around. But your brothers didn't hire me to hurt you. Hurting you is the very last thing they want. I've protected a lot of family members over the years, but I can see that they care about you more than most people are ever cared about their whole lives." He ran a hand through his hair. "I worked for Ford Vincent for a while during one of his concert tours, and he said the same thing--Sullivans stick together and have each other's backs, no matter what." He hoped some of what he was saying was making a difference. "Alec, Harry, and Drake just want to make sure they've got your back."

  "Damn you." Her words were softly spoken, but passionate nonetheless. "How did you know exactly what to say?"

  Because I know you.

  The crazy thought came at him from out of the blue. They'd only just met tonight, so it didn't make any sense. Barely bridled attraction was obviously twisting things up inside his usually perfectly rational mind.

  Working to shove crazy completely away, instead of answering her question, he said, "My job is to make sure nothing happens to you. But it's a hell of a lot harder to keep you safe if you're fighting me at every turn."

  "That's too bad, because I'm not going to stop fighting," she told him. "You might have taken round one by saying exactly the right thing at exactly the right time, but I guarantee the next round is going to me."

  With that, she took off at a brisk pace in the direction of her apartment. Knowing it would be wiser not to poke at her any more tonight by trying to walk beside her, he stayed a step behind. Close enough that he could smell her fresh scent wafting back to him--and had to work really hard not to stare at the curves outlined in her black jeans.

  When they got to her building and he headed into the elevator with her, she muttered, "Note to self: Never live in a building owned by family. Especially when they don't seem to know the meaning of the words privacy or autonomous."

  The second the elevator opened again, she shot toward her front door, clearly intending to dash inside and lock him out.

  "Suzanne." She wasn't going to like this, but it still had to be done. "I need to do a quick search of your apartment to make sure there are no threats inside."

  He didn't need to see her face to know how furious he'd just made her. Her body language alone said it.

  "Fine." She punched in her code on the electronic lock and all but kicked open the door.

  His search was as quick as he could make it. Unfortunately, he couldn't help but notice Suzanne's mark on everything in her apartment, from the stack of computers and tablets on the coffee table, to the bright quilts and blankets that he guessed had been made for her by relatives, to the huge wall of family photos in the hallway to her bedroom.

  Sweet Lord, if that wasn't the most difficult room of all to walk into. Knowing that she'd soon be taking her clothes off and getting into her be--

  Damn it. He couldn't let his brain go there.

  She was standing in the middle of her entryway looking irritated when he finished his search. "Everything's clear."

  "Of course it is." She opened the door for him. "Good night."

  Again, he couldn't help but admire her fiery personality. "Good night, Suzanne. I'll be waiting outside in the morning."

  She didn't reply, simply shot fire at him from her eyes, then slammed the door shut in his face.

  Roman wouldn't be surprised if her cousin Ian, the billionaire Seattle businessman who owned the building, got some heat from Suzanne tonight for renting Roman the apartment next door. But for all her grumbling, he knew she had to appreciate her family. He sure as hell would have if he'd grown up with anyone watching out for him the way they were watching out for her.

  He wouldn't let Alec, Harry, or Drake down.

  Roman had begun by making sure Suzanne got home safely. He'd continue by keeping his mind out of the gutter...and his hands off her.

  No matter what.


  Suzanne was good at ignoring distractions.

  Scratch that. She was a master at it. Complete and utter focus was what made her so good at coding. She never let her plans be swayed. If she wanted the new soft
ware that she was creating to work, she made it happen, no matter how many hours she needed to put in at her computer.

  But her big goal for today didn't have anything to do with code. Instead, she was aiming to get rid of her bodyguard as quickly as possible. Not only because the entire idea of having a bodyguard was ridiculous--but also because it was going to be damned hard to concentrate on everything she needed to get done with Roman standing guard over her, looking way too tall, dark, and handsome for her peace of mind.

  She'd been up late the previous night thinking through her best plan of attack. Working to convince her brothers that they were being ridiculous was obviously a dead end. And Roman had already proved that he was tough and smart enough to deal with her anger and frustration, so there was no point in wasting her time and energy storming around like a brat.

  So, what was the one thing that would guarantee Roman's resignation?

  She'd nearly paced a hole in her living room rug trying to figure out the answer. And also to burn off her irritation at having been attracted to him. Every time she thought about her drooly reaction when he'd first walked into the gallery, she grew more angry at herself.

  Around two in the morning, she'd fallen into a fitful sleep, only to dream of him the second she let her brain go. Her dreams had revolved around hot, sweaty, impressively acrobatic sex, and she'd awakened with a jolt to her six a.m. alarm, even more irritated than she'd been the night before.

  Of all the guys to feel a spark with--of all the guys to have sexy dreams about--how could she have picked him?

  She was stepping into the shower when the solution to her problem hit her like a lightning bolt, the way so many answers did when warm water was spraying over her. Given that Roman seemed close to her brothers, he had to know they would kill him for trying anything with her. So while she might not be able to scare her bodyguard away with reason or anger, she suddenly realized she had one great big thing in her corner.


  Suzanne knew she wasn't the most normal woman in the world, given that her workaholic tendencies meant she didn't have much time for dating. But that didn't mean she couldn't recognize attraction when it flared in a man's eyes. Last night at the gallery, she was positive she hadn't been the only one feeling sparks. Roman had too.

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