Captive but Forbidden

Public Duty

The news that wild socialite Veronica St. Germaine has cleaned up her act and stepped into her father’s shoes as ruler of a Mediterranean principality creates a tabloid frenzy! But it’s not just the paparazzi that are out for blood…

Private Scandal

Duty demands that bodyguard Rajesh Vala must protect Veronica — whatever the cost… But Veronica has always rebelled against commands, and she isn’t making Raj’s job easy!

He calls it ‘safeguarding’. She calls it being held captive at his beach house. Both realise that the attraction between them is inconvenient…

Veronica is nothing if not forbidden!

Read an Excerpt

Veronica bit back a cry as the door to the ladies room suddenly swung inward. No one should have gotten past the bodyguard stationed outside.

But the intruder was a man, dressed in an all too familiar black suit.

She pivoted angrily. This was too much. She would not have her private moments intruded on by her security staff.

Except this man was not her guard, nor was he wearing the typical black suit of one of her people.

“Who are you?” she blurted, her heart beginning to hammer in her throat as she faced him.

The man was tall and clad in a tuxedo that appeared to be custom fit. The fabric looked expensive, with a hint of shine that came from how tightly the cloth was woven. His dark hair curled over his collar, his golden skin so exotic and beautiful.

She’d seen this man by the bar, talking to her old friend Brady Thompson. She relaxed infinitesimally. If he knew Brady…

“I am Rajesh Vala.”

The name meant nothing to her.

His hands were shoved casually into the pockets of his trousers. The door swung shut behind him, and then it was just the two of them in the small anterior suite of the powder room. Mirrors lined three walls, giving her the impression there was more than one man in the room with her.

She swallowed, the pulse in her neck tapping a rhythm he surely could see.

He said nothing, as if he were waiting for her to speak. But she couldn’t. She could only stare. He was Bollywood handsome, with his tanned skin and honey-gold eyes, and she found herself thinking of tigers. Sleek, gorgeous, deadly.

Her heart kicked up again and she found her voice. “What have you done with my bodyguard?”

His scorn was not promising. “Your security is sadly lacking, Madam President. The most inept criminal could get to you with little trouble. And that’s a problem.”

“My security is fine—”

He took another step closer, his hands sliding free of his pockets like a tiger unsheathing his claws. Instinctively, she backed away, her bottom hitting the ledge she’d rested her purse on only a few moments ago.

He held up his hands. “I’m not here to hurt you.”

“Then step aside and let me leave.”

His sensual lips parted in a mocking smile. Her heart stuttered, then tripped forward again. Too handsome and flashy. Too, too dangerous.

She had no use for men like this. No use for any man, she silently corrected, not for a long time now. Not since she’d realized there were consequences to be paid.

“I’m afraid I can’t do that just yet, Madam President.”

“I beg your pardon,” Veronica said, as coldly as she was able. She’d learned, over the years, to brazen her way through when necessary. Sometimes all it took was the perception of authority to actually imbue authority. “That is not your decision to make.”

Again the concentrated power of the leashed tiger reflected in his eyes. “Ah, but it is.”

A chill rippled down her spine like the beginnings of an avalanche. Understanding unfolded within. She’d seen this man with Brady, but she had no idea who he really was.

What he was capable of.

Why he was here, now.

Her pulse throbbed even faster. “What have you done to my bodyguard? If you’ve hurt him…”

His head tilted. “He is special to you?”

Veronica clasped her tiny purse in both hands, holding it in front of her body like a shield. A very inadequate shield. A sudden, overwhelming urge to walk over and wipe the superior look off this man’s face rolled through her. She would not act upon it, however.

“He is my countryman, and he’s in my employ. Yes, I care about him.”

“I see. Admirable of you, Madam President. But tell me, why are you not so careful with your own person?”

Veronica gave her head a little shake. She almost felt as if she’d been drinking, when in fact she’d had nothing stronger than sparkling water, so completely did this man befuddle her senses. “I beg your pardon?”

“Once more with the begging? I’m surprised. I understood that you were far more fierce than this.”

A current of anger spiked in her belly. “I’m afraid you have me at a disadvantage, Mr. Vala. You seem to know so much about me, and I know nothing of you. Other than I saw you talking with Brady Thompson in the bar.”

“So you were paying attention.”

Veronica ground her teeth in frustration. “I would appreciate it very much if you could stop talking to me like I’m a two year old and tell me what you want.”

Rajesh Vala laughed. The sound startled her. It was rich, deep. Sexy. It curled around her, slid through her.

Disconcerted her.

“Very good, Veronica. No wonder they elected you. You project competence, regardless of whether or not it’s true.”

She refused to rise to the bait, though a worm of hurt burrowed through her composure. But what did she expect? She’d spent years being the kind of person no one would ever take seriously.

“If you truly know Brady, then you’ll know you aren’t impressing me at the moment. What is the purpose of the exercise, Mr. Vala?”

His golden eyes sparkled. Those sensual lips twitched. She found herself focusing on them, thinking how they would feel pressed against her own.

The thought shocked her. She hadn’t felt the slightest hint of interest or attraction for any man in over a year. She simply wasn’t ready for it.

To say this was an inconvenient time for those feelings to return was an understatement.

“No purpose, other than to see how good your security is. It isn’t.” He leaned against the wall, arms folded across his chest. It was such a casual pose.

But it was deceptive. She had the impression that he wasn’t relaxed at all. That he could spring into action at any second. Could strike without warning.

Like a scorpion in the night.

“The guard?” she demanded again.

“He’s fine. He might even be achieving his own personal Shangri-la right about now. Depending on his staying power, of course.”

She felt her face redden and she glanced away. Since when did she blush over innuendo? She was Veronica St. Germaine, notorious trendsetter. She’d once attended a party in St. Tropez wearing a dress that had been airbrushed onto her body. She’d literally been naked, other than the paint.

And this man made her blush?

“He was quite easily distracted, by the way. The charms of lovely Tammy, an Irish lass from Cork, were too much to resist, it seems.”

“You’re despicable.”

“No. I’m thorough. And quite adept at staying.”

Her ears were on fire. She was no longer certain what they were talking about. Security? Sex? Her mind was opting for sex and her body was reacting to the suggestion.

It’d been too long since she’d had sex. That had to be the only reason he could make her blush like an innocent virgin.

“I can’t imagine that Brady approves of your methods,” she said coolly. It was the first thing she could think of to say that might bring the conversation back from the brink.

“Not always. But he knows I’m the best.”

She wanted to sit. The heat was going to her head, making her feel faint. Or perhaps her dress was too tight. Whatever the case, she was flush, moist with perspiration. She sank onto the bench, uncaring what he might think, and clasped her hands in her lap. Though what she really wanted to do was grab one of the fluffy white towels stacked on one corner of the vanity and dab her forehead with it.

“The best, Mr. Vala?” A sudden thought occurred to her. Brady had told her just this morning that she was too wound up—but he wouldn’t hire a gigolo to relax her would he? A gigolo who outfoxed her bodyguard and caught her in the ladies room? A bubble of laughter escaped before she could stop it.

God, it was ridiculous. And maybe, just maybe, Brady truly was that crazy.

“I am a…security consultant,” the man said, watching her curiously.

Did he think she would pat the bench and suggest they get cozy together? Was Brady so insane as to think she had bodyguard fantasies? That a handsome, too sexy tiger in a tuxedo could rock her world in the ladies powder room of an expensive hotel and she’d suddenly be relaxed and ready to face the challenges awaiting her?

Once, no doubt, that would have been true. But she was a different person now. She had to be.

She found the strength to stand again. “I’m not in the mood, Mr. Vala, but I thank you for the diversion. If you could get out of my way, I’ll say goodnight now and return to the ballroom.”

His brows drew down. She had the feeling she’d insulted him somehow.

“Perhaps you didn’t hear what I said,” he replied, taking a step toward her.

“Oh, I heard you. And I’m not sure what you and Brady cooked up between you, but I’m not that desperate. Or that stupid.”

He stood so close now. So close that if she reached out, her fingertips could slide down the sleek fabric of his lapel.

His scent stole to her. Sharp and clear, like rain and warm spices. Like a sultry Indian night.

The lights dimmed for a long moment before brightening again. The tiger didn’t move, his gaze never leaving her face. She felt trapped—and safe, paradoxically.

“The power will probably go out,” he said. “We should get you back to your room. It is the safest place.”

“The safest place for what?” she asked, her voice little more than a cracking whisper, as her imagination ran wild and her skin grew hot and prickly.

Again, he looked at her curiously. “For you, Madam President.”

Cobras. They had cobras in India. Cobras that mesmerized their prey before striking. Was he less of a tiger and more of a cobra? Was she mesmerized? Was that why she felt so languid and warm, why she wanted to close her eyes and lean into him? Why she wanted to take what she thought he was offering and then pretend it had never happened?

Deliberately, she took a step back, breaking the spell. This was insane. And she had to put an end to it. There was too much at stake.

“I’m sure you’re quite good, but I’ve a duty to perform and no time for casual sex on the bathroom counter. Please tell Brady I was happily satisfied, if that’s what you need to do to get paid. I’ll find my own way back to my room.”

He stared at for her a long moment—and then he threw back his head, a sharp bark of laughter springing from his throat.

Order Print

Harlequin Presents
July 1, 2012
ISBN-13: 9780373130801
ISBN-10: 0373130805