Special Ops Bodyguard
Finalist in the Romantic Times
Reviewers Choice Awards for Bets Harlequin Romantic
Suspense of 2011!
"I have a mission—and you're not it."
Is it the honey-blond hair? The blue eyes? Gage Prescott
can't put his finger on it, but something about the
Maple Cove waitress is both sexy and innocent. Not that
it matters. The battle-scarred ex-Army Ranger has come
to this Montana town as bodyguard to Senator Kelley, not
to let a pretty face distract him.
Kate Rogers has her own mission. If, while on
assignment, the handsome Gage can assist with her
sister's abusive husband, she'll accept that gratefully.
But will their growing passion interfere when their
duties involve life and death?
SPECIAL OPS BODYGUARD
(4) by Beth Cornelison: Waitress Kate
Rogers meets former Army Ranger
Gage Prescott when he becomes a
regular at her diner while
providing protection for
scandal-ridden Senator Hank
Kelley, who is in hiding at his son's ranch after receiving threats
against his safety. The bodyguard job is complicated by the
abduction of the senator's daughter.
Fearing further scandal, the senator refuses to
notify the FBI. Cornelison's latest book in the
Kelley Family series is fast
paced and well plotted. Kate
and Gage are intriguing characters." -- Roseann Marlett, RT BookClub
Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
If experience had taught Gage
Prescott anything, it was that looks could be deceiving.
An isolated and empty road in Afghanistan could be
hiding IEDs and well-camouflaged Taliban fighters. Even
on a quiet evening, an ambush and the slaughter of your
team could happen in blinding seconds. Likewise, Maple
Cove, a sleepy Montana town nestled at the foot of the
Absaroka Mountains in the shadow of Mount Cowen, might
not be the safe escape his client was looking for. The
U.S. Senator from California, Henry "Hank" Kelley, had
retreated to his son Cole's ranch just outside the
idyllic-looking small town after riling his enemies and
having numerous mistresses come forward alleging
affairs. Hank Kelley's life was in shambles, and the
senator feared for it--which was why his son Dylan had
hired Gage and another bodyguard to protect his father.
While Bart Holden, Hank's other bodyguard, had the night
shift guarding the senator, Gage had taken the
opportunity to do a little reconnaissance. He parked the
ancient pickup truck he'd borrowed from the ranch hands
and sent an all encompassing glance around the main
street of Maple Cove. He half expected to see a
whistling man and his son strolling down the street with
fishing poles, a la Mayberry.
A yellow moon rose above the
jagged mountains and cast an eerie glow over the red
maple trees lining the main street. In the dim evening
light, the fall foliage took on a blood-red cast, and
images of gore and the cacophony of gunfire and agonized
screams prodded his memory. His heart thundering and a
fine sheen of sweat rising above his lip, Gage squeezed
the steering wheel and shook off the haunting sights and
sounds. This quiet hamlet was a far cry from the barren
and dangerous landscape where he'd last worked, but the
chill in the October evening air burrowed into Gage's
bones and warned him all might not be as calm and safe
as it seemed.
Slamming the truck door behind
him, Gage headed down the sidewalk, getting a feel for
the town. As he passed a small diner, the aroma of fresh
baked bread and savory beef wafted out to the street,
and his stomach rumbled. Deciding Ira's Diner was a good
place to start meeting the town's citizens and scoping
out potential hazards for the senator, Gage stepped
When the bell over the door
announced his arrival, a blond waitress behind the
counter looked up from the register's cash drawer and
shot him a smile filled with sunshine. "Hello there,"
the honey haired vision said, her lilting voice as
bright as her smile. "Make yourself at home. I'll be
right over to get your order."
Gage arched an eyebrow,
intrigued by the beautiful waitress. He wasn't sure what
sort of women he'd expected to find in the small town,
but this perky blonde certainly hadn't been on his
radar. He chose a stool at the lunch counter and picked
up the sticky menu to peruse the diner's offerings.
"Howdy, stranger. What brings
you to our humble town?" The blonde slid a glass of ice
water in front of him and used a rag to wipe the
Gage glanced up from the menu,
and his breath caught in his lungs. The waitress's wheat
colored hair was streaked with gold and framed eyes as
clear and blue as the Montana sky. For a moment, he
could only stare, his body humming with a purely male
interest he hadn't experienced in more months than he
"Sir? Everything all right?" Her
question nudged him from his daze, and he frowned,
embarrassed to have been caught gawking. "Yeah, fine.
I'll, uh--have the roast beef and potatoes. Coffee.
He handed the menu back to her,
and she grinned. "Good choice. The beef around here is
the best you've ever had. Guaranteed." She scribbled
his order on a pad, then hung the sheet on the order
wheel for the kitchen. "One of the advantages of living
in ranching country. Prime beef." He tipped his head in
acknowledgment but kept his expression neutral. "What
are the advantages if you're a vegetarian?" She
sputtered a laugh, and the twinkle of amusement in her
gaze made his pulse dance a little two-step. "Then I
guess you'd have to find your pleasure in the scenic
beauty and the friendly people of our fine state."
"I agree the scenery?" he
paused meaningfully and lifted one eyebrow "There is
more beautiful than I'd expected."
Her eyes narrowed, but her
lopsided grin kept her expression light. "Why, sir, are
you flirting with me?"
Gage pressed his lips in a hard
line just short of a scowl. "I don't flirt, ma'am. If I
were interested in you, I'd let you know. No games."
She rocked back on her heels,
and her smile faded. "Oh, I’m sorry." She seemed
inordinately rattled by his gruff response. An
endearing pink tint filled her ivory cheeks, and she
caught her plump bottom lip with her teeth. She was sexy
innocence personified, and he felt like a first-class
heel for his curt reply. Flapping a hand toward the
other end of the counter, she took a step back. "I'll
just-get your coffee."
Gage gritted his teeth as she
hurried away, leaving the scent of vanilla and cinnamon
in her wake. He savored the sweet aroma and kicked
himself for driving her away. What was wrong with him?
Just because he was on assignment and had no business
entertaining any ideas of female company didn't mean he
couldn't be friendly. Or at least civil. People didn't
generally use the term friendly in regards to him. He
didn't do warm and fuzzy. Two tours in Afghanistan with
the U.S. Army Rangers had hardened him, jaded him. His
last mission had scarred him. Both physically and
mentally. He found it hard to be hearts and flowers when
his best friends' blood was on his hands, and the dying
moans of his Rangers team echoed in his nightmares.
Still, his lousy past wasn't her
fault, and he might need an ally in town, a resource for
information about the people and politics in Maple Cove.
Perhaps a better tactical move would be to enlist her
help rather than keep the tempting treat at arms'
She set a steaming mug in front
of him but offered no smile this time. "Coffee. Black."
"Thanks," he grunted, and before
he could form a question about the residents of the
town, she'd spun away and returned to the far end of the
counter. Sighing, Gage turned his stool so he could lean
back against the counter on his elbows and take in the
rest of the diner. The buttery-yellow walls and high
ceiling lent the otherwise dark decor a feminine touch,
much the way his perky waitress had shone her light on
his grim mood tonight. He angled a side glance toward
her and caught her furtive glance in his direction.
Jerking her gaze away, she ducked her head, blushing to
her roots, and gave the counter a harder wipe. Gage's
cheek twitched in an almost grin. She so blatantly wore
her heart on her sleeve, he wanted to laugh. Her
openness and lack of pretense was refreshing. Looks
could be deceiving. He groaned internally. Always
staying guarded, wary and suspicious grew tiresome, but
in Gage's world, relaxing your defenses or showing your
deeper self meant leaving yourself open to attack.
Near the diner's door, an
elderly gentleman scraped the last bite of pie from his
plate while reading a Bozeman newspaper. "Delicious as
always, Kate!" he called to the blonde, who responded
with a wide grin.
A few tables away, a young
couple with a whiny baby packed up their belongings and
called a good night to the cook through the open kitchen
door. Across the room, another waitress, also an
attractive blonde, though not in the same league as Miss
Sunshine, wiped tables, then sent him a curious look as
she carried a tray of dirty dishes from the dining room.
"Order up, Kate," the cook
called as he slapped a plate up on the shelf under the
Miss Sunshine scurried over,
flashed the cook a bright smile, and called, "Thanks,
Pete." She gathered a set of silverware and a napkin
before she carried Gage's dinner to him. "Can I get you
She added a quick smile, though
the light didn't reach her eyes. You hurt her.
He shook his head, and as she turned to leave, he said,
She faced him, a curious crease
in her brow. "Pardon?"
"You asked me earlier what
brought me to town. I'm here on business. On
Her expression warmed, clearly
taking his answer as the apology he intended. Following
his cue, she leaned her hip against the counter, and her
smile lit with the sunshine with which she'd first
greeted him. "What kind of assignment? Are you a
He cut himself a bite of the
beef and shook his head. "Security specialist."
She blinked at him. "Which means
"I'm protecting a client."
Her eyebrows shot up, and her
cornflower eyes widened. "As in a bodyguard? Who for?"
She leaned closer, lowering her voice to a titillated
hush. "Is there a movie star in town?"
He shoved the meat in his mouth.
"No. Not a movie star." The tender beef and perfect
seasoning of his dinner registered as he chewed, and he
couldn't suppress the groan of pure satisfaction.
His waitress's grin turned smug.
"Told you it was the best you'd ever have. And wait
until you try my apple pie. I just took it out of the
oven before you walked in here. I'll cut you a fat slice
if you'd like."
Gage stabbed another bite.
"Wait a minute." She sent him a
speculative look. "Cole Kelley's dad is a U.S. Senator."
She tucked a handful of silky, honey blond hair behind
her ear and canted toward him. "So?...is it Senator
Kelley? Is that who you're protecting?"