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.“Oh, I’m sure you’re not.I’ve seen your Ab Flex DVDs.”He laughed.“Nice save.I prefer the pool at the gym and the cross-trainers, but I suppose I should look into DVDs.Have any you can recommend?”“Ha.My abs are currently buried under—” She broke off and rubbed the piercing above her lip.Technically the baby was under her muscles, not over, but she hadn’t stopped talking because of her anatomy gaffe.“So, about the bodyguard agency.You’re really acting as hired muscle? That’s kind of yummy.”Eyebrow-wrinkling time.“Yummy? How so?”She leaned her head on her swing and grinned at him.“You’re a strange duck, Sterling Vance.”“No, I’m serious.Take pity on me, Ang.” He wound his long, blunt fingers around his swing, and the quickening in her nether parts turned into a throb.“Do women really find men that muscle other men into line attractive?”“Think about what you just said.” She couldn’t help rolling her eyes at him good-naturedly.“That’s a yes.”“Hmm.”“Besides, bodyguards don’t only muscle around men.Unless they’re discriminatory bodyguards.Women get out of line too.” Personally, she was feeling damn feisty at the moment.If she’d been in a position to receive some field tackling, she might just have tested his reflexes.But probably not.Sterling was so far out of her league, she could practically wish on him like the Big Dipper.“No man should ever lay hands on a woman in a violent manner,” he said, voice clipped.“I happen to agree,” she said quietly, fighting to keep her mind a nice blank slate.“But there are nonviolent ways to herd disruptive women too, aren’t there?”“I suppose.I’m taking my first martial arts classes this week, so I’ll find out firsthand.” He narrowed his eyes.“You never explained why you’re no longer in school.”“There are a couple of reasons.” She preferred to think about the money rather than the reality that she’d mostly dropped out of her life, first, to avoid contact with her old world for as long as possible, and second, to make it harder for Pete to find her.Being threatened in subtle—and not so subtle—ways that she needed to end her pregnancy “before anyone found out” didn’t have the best effect on her desire to get out and mingle.“Such as?”She gave him a smile that almost felt genuine.She really had missed him.“Honey, you really don’t want to get involved.” She risked her suddenly burgeoning libido and patted the back of his hand.Like a friend would.Not like a preggo chick on the prowl for a new baby daddy.“Trust me.”“I am involved.We’re friends.That makes your business mine.” The fierceness in his tone nearly unwound her at his feet like a spool of ribbon.The discount kind that had seen better days and no one would buy because it had frayed edges.“I appreciate—”“Ang, talk to me.Don’t make me beg.I want to know.” He leaned forward into her line of sight.No matter how she tried to avoid looking at him, he was making it impossible.“No, I need to know.Please.”Oh God.He was going to make her cry.She hadn’t in all these weeks, not since her late period had clued her in to the fact that somehow she’d gotten knocked up despite taking precautions.Her ill-fated three-week relationship with Pete had already been over by then, but his sperm was the gift that kept on giving.“You might not agree if you knew how my life has changed since the last time we saw each other.”His gaze dropped pointedly to her stomach, hidden by her protective arm.Yet again she’d taken to huddling over her finger-sized baby as if she expected it to be ripped away bodily by any one of the numerous people who wouldn’t want her to have it.“It’s true that things have changed, but friends don’t make judgment calls.There isn’t anything you could say to me that would change my mind about you, Thumbelina.Not one bloody thing.”A tear snuck free and she laughed, wiping it away.He’d been calling her Thumbelina instead of Angelina for years.It was so reassuring to have that one part of her life be the same that she nearly lurched across the space that separated them to curl into his chest.But if she did that, she might never let go.“You know, maybe I should just hire you.Officially.” She thought of her meager bank account and sighed.“If we could work out a payment plan, that is.”His eyes narrowed.“Excuse me?”“I think I need a bodyguard.” Saying it out loud made it all more real somehow, just as she’d known admitting she was pregnant to more than her new doctor would change things as well.She wasn’t hiding from reality, just from discussing it.“Why would you need a bodyguard? Is someone bothering you?”She choked on her laugh.Her emotions were dangerously close to the surface, and having a sympathetic ear would make them boil right over.“You could say that.”“Don’t play games with me.Tell me what’s going on.Now.”It was simply a matter of forming words into sentences.Nothing more, nothing less.Needing a confidant didn’t make her weak.It made her human.“I’m pretty sure my ex-boyfriend is having me followed,” she said in a low voice, glancing around reflexively.They were still alone, thank God.“Why would he do that?” His jaw tightened.“Is he having a hard time moving on?”“No.He wants me to move on, and I refuse to.” She made herself meet Sterling’s intense gaze.He could bore holes in her with those eyes.“He’s determined for me to get an abortion and I think—” she exhaled unevenly, “—I think he’s willing to hurt me if I won’t.”Chapter TwoSterling jerked to his feet and paced a figure eight around her swing, caging her in unintentionally while he worked out his fury.“Sit down.You’re making me dizzy.”That probably wasn’t good for pregnant women.He sat on the edge of the swing, no longer lazily kicking off with his feet as he listened to the lovely lilt of her voice.Despite all her years in and around the city, she didn’t have an accent [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]