What the hell was taking them so long?
Devin fought the urge to get up and pace; instead he focused his frustration on his agent. “All of JT’s expenses are bein’ taken care of, right? Including transportation back home so he can recuperate?”
“The legal team wants to run it past accounting—”
“I didn’t ask about the legal team. They weren’t in that hospital room. They didn’t see the damn bloodstains on my bed. The man took hits that were meant for me—”
“Don’t say that,” his agent warned. “Neither you nor the tour promotion company is claiming any culpability for the attack. I know you’re upset, but this situation is a lawsuit waiting to happen. We don’t need any more ammo fired at us.”
Carl Carlson, the head honcho from Big Sky Promotions, nodded. “You just go right on telling folks that the beefed-up security is a requirement of headlining as one of the hottest solo tickets in country music. Remember, we’re allowing this meeting at your request. Be warned, son. I will overrule you if they don’t propose a security plan that I approve of one hundred percent.”
“That woman already gave us all the answers to our questions about security problems.”
“No. She gave us the tape to fix the leaks, but we still need someone keeping watch so no more unexpected leaks show up. Console yourself with the fact we’re not demanding two bodyguards.”
“Fine. But I’d better have a different goddamn tour bus in four days, when we leave for Salt Lake City.” It’d been humiliating enough having his name and his face plastered on his bus—he’d always hated that—but it really chapped his ass that anyone would believe he actually wanted that blatant promotion.
The door opened and the GSC trio walked in.
Devin tried to keep his focus on Tanna’s brother, but his gaze kept landing on Liberty, the ballbuster, which annoyed him; the chick was nothing special to look at. She wore shapeless monochrome clothing, her angular face was free of makeup and her eyes were a nearly colorless gray. He wasn’t even certain of her hair color since she’d plastered it to her head and secured it in a bun.
Garrett’s associate Joe, a bruiser the size of a small truck, took the reins. “As you’re aware, we don’t normally contract for such an extended amount of time, but we’ve figured out a way to make it work.”
Devin knew the only reason GSC had taken this appointment was because of his friendship with Tanna. “And I appreciate that.”
“Luckily for you, our security specialist has agreed to take the job.”
Oh no. Oh, fuck no. Devin looked at the woman and found her staring back at him … with zero emotion. His mouth opened before his brain engaged. “You seriously think I’ll let a woman protect me? That goes against the way I was raised and everything I believe in. Men protect women, not the other way around.”
“You wanted discreet security,” Garrett pointed out. “And Liberty is the best possible solution.”
“You do have a lot of women hanging around, Dev. No one would think twice about her bein’ there,” Crash added.
“Does she look like the women who hang around my shows?” Devin snapped. “No one in their right mind would ever believe I’d be with a woman like her.”
That brought a flush to Liberty’s cheeks, and Devin felt like a dick for saying it—even when it was true.
“Devin, can you not jump to conclusions?” his agent asked. “This sounds to me like the ideal solution.”
“Tryin’ to pass her off as my girlfriend?”
“We were thinking more along the lines of a personal assistant,” Garrett said.
“That theory will be blown when she’s conferring with the event security, wearing an earpiece and holstering a firearm under her business suit. Or if she perceives a threat and pulls a gun, because she—and no offense, sweetheart—looks awful trigger-happy.”
She set her forearms on the table. “You have no idea how true that statement is. But right now the person I’d be gunning for most is you, sweetheart.” Then she smiled.
Holy shit. The smile completely transformed her face—but Devin wasn’t sure if it was a good thing or a bad thing because the grin straddled the line between sexy and evil.
“I know it’s hard for you to keep your morbid sense of humor in check, Liberty, but please try,” Garrett drawled.
That wasn’t exactly a reprimand from her boss. Christ. The woman had threatened to shoot him. Had no one caught that?
Devin bristled. “I’m not joking when I say that you’re not even close to my type.”
“I assure you, Mr. McClain, you’re no more my type than I am yours.”
“Does your type have breasts and a vagina too?” It slipped out of his mouth before he could stop it.
Rather than bristle, she looked at each of the men beside her. They seemed … amused. Or maybe slightly scared of what she might do or say next.
“I’m not a lesbian—not that it would matter if I were. I’m very good at my job, but I see you’ve got too much ego to find that out for yourself. I doubt it’s your naturally protective male instincts telling you that it’s a crime against nature to hire me, but more your testosterone-laden fear that someone—your fans, your friends, your family in Wyoming, your way-hotter-than-me female groupies—will think less of you for having to hire security at all.”
It pissed him off that she already had his number. If she could read him that well, how quickly could she assess a potentially dangerous situation? “Go on.”
“People want a piece of you. People think they know you through your music. While ninety-nine percent of your fans are just normal, everyday people who love music, it’s my job to be concerned about that other one percent who boarded the crazy train. And, honestly, if it’s only about appearances for you, wouldn’t you rather people know it takes only one butch woman to protect you instead of two former linebackers? That makes you look badass, not weak.”
Damn. This woman was really, really good.
So he shocked the shit out of her by saying, “So much for my theory that you’re the fade into the background with your mouth shut type.”
“Only when it’s warranted, sir.”
Devin directed his question to Garrett just to see if she’d become outwardly indignant. “Has she ever saved someone’s life?”
“Absolutely. She’s a bona fide hero,” Joe inserted with pride. “Two years ago, while serving in Afghanistan, she took three bullets as part of a security detail. The intended target was …?”
“An ambassador to the UN,” she supplied.
“Did you know him?” Devin asked.
“No. But that didn’t matter because I did my job—which was protecting him.”
“Liberty received an honorable discharge.” Garrett paused. “If you have any further questions, please address Liberty directly.”
“Fine.” Devin locked his gaze to Liberty’s and said, “Everyone out. I want to talk with G.I. Jane one-on-one.”
After the door closed and they were alone, Devin said, “No offense. I really don’t want to hire you. Not because you’re a woman, but because I don’t want to hire anyone.”
“I’m aware of that.”
“You should also know that I’m not sexist, but—”
“In my experience, men who say that usually are sexist.”
He fought a sigh. “You don’t give an inch, do you?”
She maintained eye contact. “After spending more than a dozen years in the military, I’m good at doing what I’m told. But I was also in a position of command, so when I issue an order, I expect it to be followed. I suspect you’re not the type to follow orders—from men or women.”
G.I. Jane had definitely hit the nail on the head. Devin scrubbed his hands over his face. “Look. I’m not an asshole.”
“In my experience, men who say that—”
“Usually are assholes. Yeah, yeah, I get it.” He paused, needing to take a different, less antagonistic tack with her. “How’d you know I’m from Wyoming? Did you read my bio?”
“No. My sister lives outside of Muddy Gap.”
“Who’s your sister?”
His jaw dropped. “Are you fuckin’ serious? Hot, sexy beauty queen Harper is your sister?”
“Hard to believe, isn’t it?” she said with a hint of humor. “Harper got the looks in our family and our little sister Bailey got the brains.”
“What did you get?”
Not the answer he expected.
As they stared at each other across the table, ready to battle, Devin realized her eyes weren’t a boring hue, but almost a shimmery silver.
What the fuck? Since when do you give a shit about her eye color? Focus. “What now?”
“How about you listen to my stipulations before I hear yours? We can go from there.”
He motioned for her to bring it.
“If you hire me, I will be by your side 24/7. I have one job: your bodyguard. I don’t fetch coffee. I don’t cook. I don’t clean your tour bus. I don’t chauffeur you around. I don’t wash your clothes. I don’t run errands. I don’t mix drinks. I don’t answer your fan mail. I don’t procure groupies for you to fuck. I don’t get on my knees and suck you off. I’m not paid to kiss your ass; I’m paid to protect it.”
No confusion on her job expectations.
“Now, what were your concerns?” she said frostily.
“You’re a little prickly, aren’t you?”
“If you’d dealt with as many pricks as I have over the years, you’d know some of that attitude was bound to rub off on me.”