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Getting a little antsy waiting for June 24th to finally roll around? Maya Banks has published an excerpt from her highly anticipated upcoming release on her Facebook Page!
Swanny turned in the direction of the hesitant, feminine voice to see Eden standing in the now-open doorway to the bedroom. She was wearing a large man’s button-up shirt, and though she was taller than the average woman, the tails clipped the tops of her knees, baring a good portion of the expanse of her shapely legs.
She sent an accusing look in Raid’s direction. “You promised to wake me when they got here.”
“They just did get here, honey,” Raid said in a placating tone. “I was just about to go wake you. We’ve only finished introductions.”
He didn’t even blink over the lie.
Swanny’s gaze was riveted to Eden. Tousled hair, sleepy eyes and legs to die for. As if realizing she was only wearing a shirt, she pulled at the hem, attempting to cover more of her legs, but the action tightened the shirt over her breasts, outlining them with clarity, and just a hint of her nipple was discernible through the material.
“I’ll, uh, just go get dressed,” she said, discomfort evident in her voice.
She quickly shut the door.
“You look at her and give me one good reason to break her heart,” Eddie said in a low voice. “She sees the good in everyone. She’s too soft for her own good. I don’t want to ruin that. Not if I can help it.”
Swanny shook himself from his reverie, glancing at his teammates to make sure no one had seen him looking inappropriately at Eden. If they’d noticed, they didn’t make it obvious, thank God.
Quiet descended and then a moment later, Eden reappeared, dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, and her hair was pulled into a ponytail. She hadn’t bothered with makeup, but Swanny had seen the pictures of her all glammed up and he preferred the more natural Eden. She was beautiful no matter the trappings. Perhaps he was less intimidated with the person instead of the supermodel.
“I’m Eden Sinclair,” she said unnecessarily. She offered a smile to each of the KGI members as introductions were performed by Ryker.
Swanny tensed when Ryker got to him, and as was his habit, he turned the scarred side of his face to the side so she wasn’t staring at it.
But her smile was warm as she shook his hand, her fingers squeezing his tightly.
“Swanny, of course I remember Ryker talking about you. And Nathan and Joe as well. I’m so glad to finally meet some of the men he served with.”
She took a seat next to her father, her expression one of unease. “So what’s going on, Daddy?”
Eddie sighed and took Eden’s hands in his. “I’d feel better if you had more protection for this next shoot. I know how important it is to you, so I won’t ask you not to do it. But for my peace of mind, I’d like KGI to take over your personal protection, at least for this shoot.”
She glanced around, her lips pursed, as if she’d only just realized that David and Micah were no longer present.
“I sent them home. They’re long overdue for a break,” Eddie said, correctly reading the question in her eyes. “KGI will take over from here.”
She sighed. “Don’t you think you’re overreacting just a little?” she asked gently.
That immediate denial came from Raid, who up to now had remained silent. Eden sent her brother a startled look.
“I’d much rather us overreact than underreact when it comes to your safety, darling,” Raid said. “If a few is good, then more is better.”
Her shoulders sagged and resignation reflected on her features. “All right. But I can’t have the set overrun with five hulking bodyguards. The photographer will have a cow.”
“He’ll get over it,” Joe said bluntly. “I’ll have a talk with all the people associated with the shoot and explain the necessity of our presence. We’ll come to an understanding. You won’t have to worry about us being in the way. But we will be there. Your protection is our number one priority and we don’t care whose feet we step on in the process.”
She blinked in surprise. “Well, okay.”
“Now, I’ve ordered room service so you can eat, and then I want you to get a good night’s sleep,” Eddie said in a firm voice. “Your flight leaves tomorrow, but you won’t be taking a commercial flight. I don’t want a paper trail that would make it easy for someone to track you.”
Eden paled. “You honestly think this shooting was directed at me?”
“We aren’t willing to take any chances with your safety,” Ryker said bluntly. “Until we have evidence to the contrary, we’re treating it as a direct threat to you.”
She heaved in a deep breath and sagged against the back of the sofa. Then to her dad, “Nothing more than a salad. I can’t afford to gain even a pound for this shoot.”
Swanny’s eyebrows went up in surprise and Eden must have noticed.
She shot him a rueful smile. “The camera adds ten to fifteen pounds. So for all practical purposes I have to be those ten to fifteen pounds underweight because the camera puts them right back on. The camera is very unforgiving. If I have any extra weight, it will show and I could lose my contract over it.”
“You’re perfect just the way you are,” Swanny said bluntly.
Her smile warmed and color suffused her cheeks. “Thank you. But my photographer would disagree.”
“Then he’s a fool,” Swanny muttered.
“I ordered a variety of food so everyone can eat. There are a couple of side salads so you can have what you like,” Eddie soothed. “But swear to God, Eden, when this shoot is over, you’re taking a break for a while and you’re going to eat like a normal human being. You’re too thin as it is. I worry about you.”
She rolled her eyes. “It’s not like I have an eating disorder, Dad. I work out and I’m healthy as a horse.”
The doorbell to the suite rang and Ryker got up to go let the room service attendant in. A few minutes later, the food was all set up on the table and everyone ate buffet style.
Eden was studying each of the members of Swanny’s team and he tried to stay back, out of her direct line of sight. Still, he felt her scrutiny and it made him uncomfortable. He sat as far away from her as possible while they ate. But it seemed not to make a difference. Every time he stole a glance her way—with his scarred side averted—she was studying him. He could swear he felt her gaze. Was she gawking, trying to get a better look at his scars? But no, when he chanced another glance at her she was simply staring at him thoughtfully.
“Swanny? What’s your real name?” Eden suddenly asked.
Swanny’s gaze lifted in surprise that she’d singled him out when she hadn’t said a word during the meal to any of the other members of his team.
Her cheeks colored as if she’d regretted the impulsive question. Damn, but he was being rude by simply staring at her like a moron.
“It’s just in all of Ryker’s letters he always called you Swanny but he did say it was a knick name formed by your last name Swanson, but he never told me what your first name was,” she said in a rush as if trying to assuage him as to why she’d asked the original question.
“Daryl,” Swanny said gruffly. “But nobody calls me that. Ever. I just go by Swanny.”
She gave him a breathtaking smile that was like a punch to the gut. Her eyes were warm with a hint of a spark to him. Or maybe he was imagining that.
“I’ll remember that…Swanny,” she said, her smile never wavering. “I’m very glad you made it home from Afghanistan. Ryker agonized for months that you and your teammates were MIA. And I felt like I knew you all from Ryker’s letters, so it was very upsetting to me as well.”
She was actually acknowledging him. Talking to him when she could have said the exact same thing to Nathan. But she’d never even looked at anyone else but him because every time he glanced her way, she was staring at him.
He had no idea how to respond. What to say. His tongue was in knots and the words stuck in his throat. He finally managed a short thank you, knowing he was being rude for not saying more. It shamed him that he was relieved when the rest finished their meals and Raid prompted Eden to go to bed.
Eden put up a fuss, saying she’d already taken a nap, but Raid wouldn’t be swayed. He dumped two pills in her hand and stood there until she took them. It was already nine in the evening and they still had a lot of planning to do. It would be a hell of a lot easier if Eden was sleeping so she wouldn’t by chance overhear anything her father didn’t want her knowing.
After waving a disgusted good night to everyone, Eden allowed Raid to hustle her off to bed, but still they waited until half an hour later when Raid quietly went in to check to see if Eden was sleeping yet.
He returned with a thumbs-up. “She’s out like a light. Today exhausted her, though she’d never admit it.”
“Okay, so we obviously have Eden’s protection covered,” Joe said, “but what about the source of the threat? What intel can you provide us? I can call Sam and get a team working on that angle because until that’s eliminated we’re spinning our wheels.”
“I hadn’t thought past Eden’s protection,” Eddie admitted. “But of course the threat to her has to be eliminated. I’ve put in another call as well regarding the situation but didn’t hook up so I’m grateful that you all can get on this now.”
“I’ll put a call into Sam,” Nathan interjected. “I’ll give him the rundown, but we need to know everything. Don’t hold back anything that could help or hinder us. We can’t be flying blind. Sam won’t send a team in if it’s going to get them killed.”
Eddie nodded. “I’ll give you everything I know. I appreciate this. More than you’ll ever know.”
“While we’re in Paris with Eden, you, Ryker and Raid need to lie low. If this guy can’t get to Eden, he may just go after one of you instead,” Joe warned.
“I’m not hiding from this fucker,” Raid said, his eyes glittering dangerously. “I have a job to do. I hope that asshole does come after me.”
“Just watch your sixes,” Nathan said. “We’re going to make damn sure he doesn’t get to Eden.”
“That’s all I ask,” Eddie said. “Keep my baby safe.”
“Edge, you call one of our pilots and tell him to bring the bigger jet. Tell him what’s going on and to be ready tomorrow at three. For that matter call in the other pilot to hitch a ride so he can fly the small jet back to the compound.” Joe said. “Nathan, you call Sam. Give him the rundown. The rest of you stand down. We need to get some rest while we can grab it.”
“We can crash in Eden’s room,” Ryker said, gesturing to himself and his father and brother. “It’ll leave more room for your crew to sleep out here.”
“I need to call Nigel, her agent, and let him know what’s going on,” Eddie said. “He can also smooth the way with everyone on site. He’s planning to arrive earlier than Eden so that will help, hopefully.”
As soon as the Sinclairs retreated into Eden’s room, Swanny began preparing a makeshift bed on the floor, using one of the cushions from the couch as a pillow. After Edge and Nathan made their calls, they joined the others in bunking down.
It was just another day on the job. Nothing they hadn’t done a hundred times before. This was one they could do in their sleep. And yet Swanny found himself wide awake, replaying those brief moments when Eden had been in the same room.
He’d been right. Just being in her presence was like being washed in sunshine.