For Aaron McBain, it was just another routine job, protecting his client at an office Christmas party. Until commandos stormed the place and took a hostage. But they had the wrong woman...the very woman Aaron had started dating--under a different cover.
Risa Peters couldn't convince the gunmen she was the wrong hostage, nor could she believe her so-called "tax attorney" boyfriend wrested her away. But as the threats against her escalated, Risa and Aaron found themselves trapped in the building in the midst of a deadly conspiracy. And only her sexy new protector--a man she hardly knew but already wanted--stood between her and a bullet.
Aaron McBain stood in the only doorway without mistletoe taped to the beam and checked his watch for the tenth time. The schedule ticked along with precision. No surprises. No problems.
He knew that was a bad sign.
No holiday party ever ran on time or as planned. Actually, no party, meeting or anything sponsored by Craft Industries sailed along without an issue. But a half hour before the official kickoff, a steady line of sullen office workers dressed in gray suits filed in and now hovered in groups around tables and near the Christmas tree set up on the small stage at the far end of the room.
Absent was the usual happy holiday chatter found at similar events for other companies, likely because the boss declared attendance mandatory for this after-hours, nowhere-near-the-office party. Amazing how requiring people to have fun guaranteed they didn't.
Neither did the thirty-mile drive from their northern Virginia office building in McLean to the Elan Conference Center at the edge of the metro area's wine country in Loudoun County. Lowell Craft, the company's president and owner, lived out there and didn't care what kind of traffic disaster the Washington, D.C., rush hour imposed on everyone else.
Aaron wasn't exactly on fire for the party, either, and the drive was only one frustration. For the past three months, since he and his team had been hired by Lowell to provide him with extra security, he'd been handling everything from drunken rages in the office hallways by dismissed employees to outright threats against Lowell. And since Lowell spouted some controversial business theories, including one about how what motivated the staff was a series of unexpected firings on Fridays, it was amazing the guy wasn't attacked in the office parking lot every afternoon.
But there was a viable threat today, had been for months since Lowell got the first note promising a painful death if he didn't step down as head of the company by Christmas. Which was why Aaron stood three feet away from where Lowell inspected the buffet table, wearing his usual frown. He apparently didn't approve of the festive atmosphere the center had provided. Not a surprise to Aaron since as far as he could tell Lowell didn't like anything.
Aaron blew out a long breath as he listened to his assistant, Royal Jenkins, whistle an annoying tune into the open-ear mic. When the frustrated exhale didn't drive the point home, Aaron tried an across-the-room scowl at the man who was younger, fitter and less disciplined but possessed sniper-level shooting skills thanks to his short army stint.
Finally Aaron went for the direct approach with Royal. "Any chance you could stop that?"
"You want to request a different song?" Royal smiled as he nodded a welcome to Angie Troutman, the woman who by day ran the Craft human resources department and by night serviced Lowell. Their evening activities were a constant source of office gossip.
"Let's start with a moment of silence and then go from there," Aaron said.
Royal walked across the room and two seconds later stood next to Aaron. "You notice something missing at this party?"
Aaron watched the employees crowd together at a point in the room farthest away from their boss. "People who actually want to be here?"
"There is that, but no."
"Is it the lack of anything resembling holiday cheer or happiness?"
"Ah, yes. Lowell sent around a memo prohibiting music in the workplace." Aaron eyed the business dictator in question as he moved around the serving platters the catering staff had just...