#Book Blast :: Love's Design (Bodyguards, Inc. #5) by RJ Scott
Title: Love's Design
Series: Bodyguards, Inc. #5
Author: R.J. Scott
Genre: M/M Contemporary Romance
Release Date: December 9, 2015
Can Christmas be the time when Kirby finally stops running and allows himself to fall in love with the man who saves his life?
CIA Agent Stefan Mortimer is cooling his heels in the UK until he can go home. Taking on easy assignments with Bodyguards Inc. seems like a good solution to keep him sane. He's used to life throwing him curveballs, and it’s just another day at the office when he rescues Kirby Devlin and his niece and nephew. Now he has to keep Kirby and the kids alive and stay professional.
Kirby Devlin has one priority; keeping his small family safe. On the run, and facing danger at every turn, Kirby finally runs out of places to hide on a snowy December day at an Edinburgh train station. Stefan comes to the rescue, saves him and the children. Is it possible that Kirby finally has someone to trust?
Now, if only it would be as easy for Kirby to trust Stefan with his heart.
"...Kirby was on the run with little Andy and Louise, having seen their father stabbed and left for dead. An unexpected attack at the train station left Kirby in a bloody mess and Stefan coming to the rescue. ... Love’s Design was a great addition to the Bodyguard, Inc. series, with a magical Christmas theme..."
“If you’re not reading this series, you really need to because it wins all the awesome!” ~Meredith at Diverse Reader
“When I read an R.J. Scott book I never fail to get a quiver in my body and a smile on my face. Love’s Design lived up to my expectations.” ~Evelise at S.E.X. Reviews
Stefan didn’t like to see a kid wince that way, in fear, and he recognized the bravery that followed. He looked at Kirby, at the blood, at the pale wash of heat on his high cheekbones and the pain that bracketed his eyes. “Yes, we are. You, me, the kids, are all getting checked out.”
“I can’t,” Kirby said a little desperately. “If we do….”
“He’ll find us,” Andy finished.
Stefan looked from Kirby to the little boy and back. “Who will? One of the guys I knocked out?”
Andy’s eyes widened. “You did? All of them? Bull as well?”
“Is Bull the big guy with no neck?” Stefan asked.
Andy nodded. “Aye.”
“Yeah,” Stefan said. “Even him.”
Andy’s eyes widened. “Really?”
Kirby moved between Stefan and Andy. He evidently wanted to cut off the fledgling hero worship. “We need to go,” he said. “The bairns and I, we need to go. Now.”
Stefan translated the word bairns to mean children. “Sorry, can’t do that,” he replied. “I need some answers, and I need them now before I call Security.”
If anything, Kirby’s face paled further at those words and Stefan saw his gaze dart guiltily to the door.
“I’m just taking my niece and nephew for a break,” Kirby said quickly and started to brush past Stefan.
“I don’t believe you.” Stefan gripped Kirby’s arms, startled at the sheer fear in the other man’s eyes and wondering whether, if he looked hard enough, he could find a glimmer of guilt.
“Let. Me. Go.” Kirby’s words had an edge to them, an edge of violence, and it was all Stefan could do not to scoop up the kids there and then. Violence in a man with children this small didn’t bear thinking about. “I don’t know who you are, but you need to leave me and the bairns alone,” Kirby said firmly, drawing himself as tall as he was able. “He can’t have them, and I swear if you try anything, I will call Security myself.”
“Who can’t have them? Is someone after you? Is it Child Protection? What are you trying to do?” Stefan asked.
“Leave us alone,” Kirby forced out, rubbing soothing motions into the girl’s back as she whimpered at his raised voice.
Stefan realized the more Kirby talked, the more involved Stefan became. Clearly there was an agenda here, and Stefan wasn’t sure he wanted to be a part of it. He wanted to know why a man and two children were being chased down. What was Kirby’s connection to the kids? And who the hell were Bull, Tommy, and Pacing Man? Kirby would be going to the hospital if Stefan had his way, but first things first, Stefan needed to assess this situation.
“I’m calling Security,” he decided. Something was wrong here, and he had to get the authorities involved.
Stefan didn’t see Kirby move or put the little girl down, but he sure as hell felt the punch that snapped his head back. He immediately went on the defensive, grabbing Kirby, twisting him around, and pressing him to the wall.
Kirby yelped in pain, but Stefan wasn’t letting go just yet. He felt tiny fists on his thighs.
“Leave him alone, let him go!”
Both kids were thumping him. Stefan loosened his hold, watching as Kirby slid down the wall, and the two children moved to stand between him and Kirby.
“Please,” Kirby said, “No police.”
The way he said police—poe-leece—was so soft, and pleading was clear in every cell of him.
“Don’t touch my uncle,” the boy snapped, fierceness in his expression.
Stefan held up his hands. “I won’t touch him.”
“Let us go,” Kirby murmured. “Go away so I can find somewhere safe.”
Stefan thought on his feet and crouched again, so he was on the same level as the kids. “I can help you, but you have to tell me something first.”
The boy frowned but didn’t lower his fists or step away from Kirby. “What?” he asked suspiciously.
“Is he really your uncle?”
The frown didn’t drop. “Yes.” The boy nudged the girl. “Tell him, Lou.”
“Tell him what?” The girl, Lou, didn’t have her fists up. Her eyes were bright with tears, but she was as brave as her brother, standing as a barrier between Kirby and Stefan.
“Tell him you want to stay with Uncle Kirby.”
She didn’t answer in words; she nodded, then slipped back and into Kirby’s arms.
Stefan eyed the tableau critically. “Okay, I’ll get you all away from here, as long as your uncle promises to see a doctor.”
“I will,” Kirby said. “Let us go, and I will go straight to a hospital when I can.”
Stefan didn’t like to point out the contradiction in going straight there and the added “when I can.” He would cross that bridge when he came to it.
“This is how it’s going to go,” Stefan began. “We’re leaving.” He stared past the small boy and into Kirby’s green eyes, wondering what kind of man Kirby was.
“We’re getting a train,” Kirby said.
“Not tonight, you’re not. They shut the station down, issues with snow.”
“Shit.” The curse was loud and made Lou wince.
“Why do those men want you, Kirby? What did you do, and whose kids are these?” There, that was all the questions Stefan had at this moment.
Kirby stared at him, holding the girl tight. Maybe Kirby wasn’t bleeding internally, but he looked like shit. Kirby stumbled to stand, using the wall to support himself. Stefan took a step closer, and, in response, Kirby moved to one side, his hands on Andy’s shoulders, his legs hitting boxes. He looked scared and defiant, and he stepped forward so he was between Stefan and the children as much as he could be.
Andy still had his hands clenched at his sides, and there was a scowl on his face. “McLeod hurt Daddy, stuck a knife in him and made him fall down,” Andy said. “We saw him do it.”
Stefan looked from Andy to Kirby and put two and two together immediately. The kid’s dad was knifed, and the uncle was taking them from Edinburgh? Jesus, this was worse than he thought. “The children are witnesses to something?”
Kirby nodded mutely, and the horror of what was happening here hit Stefan. This was stupid; they needed to call the cops.
“An’ Uncle Kirby was keeping us safe,” Andy added. “Don’t you hurt him.”
Stefan shook his head, as struck dumb as Kirby was. The pain in his wrist was more of a dull ache, so it clearly wasn’t that bad. Either that or adrenaline was numbing him. Wouldn’t be the first time. He had to trust Kirby and his niece and nephew were in danger, and this was what Stefan did best—he handled threats, and he looked out for people.
“We need to get you out of here. Where’s your car?”
Kirby blinked at him. “We were going to…. I don’t have a car.”
“Okay. I have one. I’m in the main parking area.” He stopped talking and instead internalized all the steps needed to get Kirby and the children to his waiting car and then the authorities. By now the three men he’d dealt with would be awake. “Follow me and stay behind me. Okay?”
“Uncle Kirby?” Andy said from behind him.
“It’s okay, Andy. You remember the rules.”
“Aye, run, and if they catch me, I scream right loud, like a girl.”
The kid looked so earnest. His short dark hair was in a messy pile of sticking-up bits, his eyes were damp, but he’d spoken with complete determination.
Kirby nodded. “And stay with me.”
Andy looked up at Stefan. “You a bad guy who’s good?”
What Stefan landed himself in, he didn’t know, but hell if he was abandoning one skinny man with intriguing green eyes and two small kids.
A bad guy was not who he was. He was a typical good guy, who was quite happy being the bad guy if it kept innocent civilians safe. That was who Stefan Mortimer was.
And he was excellent at his job.
Kirby held Louise tight and eased over one shoulder the backpack he’d left in the room with his niece and nephew. The burn was intense. Tommy had hit his mark each time. God knows what would have happened if Bull had joined in. Kirby should thank the heavens that Stefan had found them before he ended up a bloody mess or worse on a bathroom floor. They wanted Andy and Louise, and there was no way Kirby would crack and tell them where they were.
“Come on, Andy, he won’t hurt us,” Kirby lied. How the hell would he know what this superhero was going to do? He was CIA, but that wasn’t a cop, so he wouldn’t know who McLeod was, wouldn’t know how bad this situation was for Andy and Louise. He held out a hand to Andy, which the child took immediately.
“I’ll take the boy,” Stefan ordered, attempting to wrest Kirby’s grip from Andy.
Andy shouted a sharp “No!”
“What the hell? Stop it! For God’s sake, you’re scaring him,” Kirby snarled, his free hand coming out to block Stefan’s movement.
They stood staring at each other.
“I’m scaring him?” Stefan sounded incredulous. “How can I be scaring him? I’m trying to help him.”
“Just be gentle.” Kirby’s voice was determined, firm, but it wasn’t enough to get Stefan to stand down. At this point, Kirby wasn’t sure that anything he could say would make Stefan stand down. Kirby’s voice was low, his hand raised, palm upward, entreating Stefan not to make a fuss. As Stefan moved again, Kirby switched suddenly from simply telling to instant pleading. “Please, don’t hurt him. Just help us out of here.”
Stefan looked confused for a moment, and then, more carefully, he held out his hands. Andy looked from Kirby to Stefan before accepting the lift up. He curled into Stefan’s neck.
“Uncle Kirby?” Louise’s voice was so low that Stefan almost missed it. “I’m thirsty.”
The little girl was oblivious to most of what had happened today, but however used to the violence she was, she had to be scared and uncertain, and in turn, Kirby had to be the strong one. It broke his heart to hear her soft voice. “We’ll get you a drink soon, sweetie. You’re going to be okay?”
She nodded. Then it was clearly time to go. With the silent impasse, the tension curling between the two men, Kirby waited as Stefan opened the door a crack to peer outside.
“It’s clear,” Stefan announced.
Kirby wanted to ask him if he was sure, but he didn’t. Stefan was CIA; he must know what he was doing. More so than Kirby, general fuck-up and a waste of space, would.
Stefan turned back to him. “New rules. You stay with me, you don’t run off, we find the cops, and we sort this out.”
Kirby’s world shifted. “No, I can’t. We can’t. Please.” If the cops knew he was here, if they knew about McLeod, and Robbie, they would take one look at Kirby and take Andy and Louise. He wasn’t going to let that happen.
“What?” Stefan frowned.
“No cops, please. Just let me get them safe.”
Then what? Kirby asked himself. He didn’t even know what the fuck he was doing. Getting a train from Edinburgh to freaking anywhere hadn’t gone well so far after the snow had canceled so many departures.
“We need to report this,” Stefan persisted.
“I’ll explain everything. Just get us away.” Pain knifed through him from his chest, which Louise’s weight pressed on, and he couldn’t help the gasp of pain. “Please.”
Stefan stared at him, incredulous, and clearly two seconds away from calling emergency services and bringing the full weight of the law down on the idiot who thought he could fix everything.
“I’m not promising anything.”
“Then I will take them and run.”
“Fu—freaking idiot.” Stefan corrected his cursing. “People want to hurt you.”
“Not as much as I want to hurt them,” Kirby snapped.
Stefan’s lips tightened, He relaxed and exhaled noisily. He’d clearly read something in Kirby’s expression, probably the evidence that Kirby was not taking this to the cops.
“Okay, but the minute I think—”
“Thank you,” Kirby interrupted.
Stefan peered back out of the door. “Walk normally,” he said under his breath. “Hide your face.”
Kirby didn’t argue. He tried to walk as normally as he could despite every part of him screaming that he should run fast and far. He hid the bruises on his face and the blood that pooled at his throat behind Louise’s long hair and hoped to hell no one stopped them.
They made it out of the waiting area, and Kirby refused to look at the door to the bathrooms. What if McLeod was awake, or Tommy and Bull? With what Andy and Louise knew, those guys weren’t going to let them get away.
They crossed two roads before entering the parking lot. Kirby wanted to look around them, wanted to ensure Robbie and his goons weren’t waiting for them, but he didn’t. With absolute focus, he followed Stefan, walking just a few feet behind him, fixated entirely on the slightly limping walk that Stefan had going on.
That man was a goddamn hero; he’d dispatched McLeod and Tommy—not to mention Bull—in just a few simple movements. He was capable and clever, and he’d get them out of here. They reached a large black 4x4, and the sound of the doors unlocking was loud in the nearly empty part of the parking lot.
With quick motions, both men had the back doors open. Only then did Kirby realize there were no car seats. He closed his eyes briefly. They needed car seats. His eyes caught Stefan’s, and he knew that was the least of their worries. He strapped Louise in, watched as Stefan did the same with Andy, and then they climbed into the front.
“Please drive safely,” Kirby murmured. “Don’t hurt the bairns.”
Stefan cast him a quick glance that spoke volumes. If looks could kill, Kirby would be dead already.
Efficiently, Stefan had them out of the parking lot and onto the main road until the glow of the city receded and they were on the M8 driving southwest. Stefan kept checking his mirror.
“Are we being followed?” Kirby asked.
“No, I can’t see that we are.”
“You can drop us anywhere.” Kirby looked back at Andy and Louise, both dozing in the belts. “Soon. I don’t like them in the car without seats.”
“Seems like the least of your worries,” Stefan commented evenly. “Want to tell me what the fuck just happened?”
Kirby shook his head and faced front. “Drop us off at a bus stop or something.”
“Of course I can do that,” Stefan said.
Kirby sighed with relief; he’d been expecting Stefan to argue. “Thank you.”
“As soon as you tell me where you’re going. What bus stop should I be dropping you at?”
Shit. Kirby should have known that Stefan wasn’t letting this lie. He thought on his feet. “I have family in Jedburgh,” he lied.
“No, you don’t.”
“Kirby, stop. I’m not dropping you or the children anywhere for some freaking bus at nearly eleven at night. It’s freezing out there. You’d last five minutes.” They stopped at a junction, and Stefan crossed his hands on the wheel as they waited for the lights to change. He seemed to be favoring his right hand, and it looked swollen. Had he hurt it trying to help Kirby? “Stop messing about. What do you need?”
“I got that. What do you need?”
“Sleep. Somewhere for the children to sleep, somewhere I can clean up. To think.”
Stefan nodded. “Finally, the truth.” He pulled into a gas station and cut the engine. “Stay here. I’ll be back in five minutes.”
Kirby nodded mutely. Where the hell would he go? Take Andy and Louise and run. But run where? Stefan had stopped in the middle of freaking nowhere, despite being on the main road. The snow was persistent but not heavy, the roads were still white with it, and anyone passing would be unlikely to pick them up. Was Stefan in there calling the police?
Stefan came back pretty quickly, with a carrier bag of stuff that he stowed next to Kirby’s seat. Kirby didn’t ask about the police; he had to trust Stefan. They left the service station and took the next road winding out into the countryside, with Stefan visibly looking for something in particular. They ended up driving for about ten minutes, and the outskirts of a small town began to emerge on the otherwise deserted road. The sign read “Livingstone,” and there was a Premier Inn. Stefan went in, paid, then drove to the rear of the hotel, parking the car under the trees by the snowdrifts against the wall, around a corner and out of sight of anyone happening to pass.
The man who had saved them had skills.
“We can go in the rear.” Stefan took the carrier bag, opened the back door and scooped up a dozing Andy, who murmured in his sleep, then woke and wriggled to be let down. Stefan let him slip to the ground as Kirby picked up the sleeping Louise. Soon the four of them had made their way through the rear entrance with their key card, and up one flight of stairs to room 210.
Kirby didn’t know what he was doing. Why did he trust this man? What secrets would he have to keep to stay safe? Fuck, how were they in a hotel room with a strange man?
What had happened to keeping his head down and staying alive?
RJ Scott has been writing since age six when she was made to stay in at lunchtime for an infraction involving cookies and was told to write a story. Two sides of A4 about a trapped princess later, a lover of writing was born. She reads anything from thrillers to sci-fi to horror; however, her first real love will always be the world of romance. From billionaires, bodyguards and cowboys to SEALs, throwaways and veterinarians, she writes passionate stories with a heart of romance, a troubled road to reach happiness, and more than a hint of happily ever after.