Mom-to-be Nicole Benedict rarely cut loose. So when a one-night stand led to an unplanned pregnancy, she went to track down Ethan Moore and share the happy news. Too bad a criminal mastermind and the bomb he launched in her direction got in the way...
As a bodyguard, Ethan was trained to protect people then walk away. But no amount of training had prepared him for protecting Nicole and his unborn child. Being the lone witness to the attack, Nicole had attracted a killer's attention--yet had no memory of that morning's events. Not only did Ethan's career hinge on this job, but if he failed, he could lose everything he'd never known he wanted....
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July 31, 2007
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Excerpt from Classified Baby by Jessica Andersen
"I'm here to see Ethan Moore at Prescott Personal Securities." Nicole Benedict resisted the urge to wipe her damp palms on her jeans. The lobby of the posh Denver office building was cooler than the summer day outside, but the air-conditioning did little to quell her nervous jitters.
The uniformed guard tapped the touch pad on his computer screen, selecting the roster for PPS. "And you are?"
"Nicole Benedict. I don't have an appointment." And it was a good bet Ethan wouldn't recognize her name.
Heck, she'd be surprised if he recognized her face. It had only been a couple of months since they'd met at Hitchin' My Getalong, a hokey themed bar in the heart of the city, but the handsome, brooding stranger hadn't been real sober when she'd hitched her getalong up onto the bar stool beside him.
Okay, neither of them had been real sober that night. "Sign in here." The guard handed over a digital pad that reminded Nicole of the ones the courier guy used when he delivered her research supplies.
The thought brought a wince. Unless she found a new sponsor for her biofuel project at Donner High School, the research would be doomed before the school year started. Then again, ten weeks ago, the conjunction of the defunct sponsorship, her thirtyfourth birthday and the one-year anniversary of her ex-engagement to Jonah I-prefer-blondes Douglas had been the most important things in her universe.
How quickly things change, she thought as she used the plastic wand to scrawl her name, destination and the time she'd entered the building onto the pressure pad. She glanced at the blank "time out" box and tried not to wonder how long her meeting would take. What Ethan would say.
Swallowing hard, she accepted a visitor's badge from the guard and headed for the elevator. The deep blue carpet was springy underfoot. The elevator doors were made of copper-colored metal, and etched with repeating symbols that reminded her of the Navajo blanket on her bed. A classy plaque beside the call buttons bore the names of the megadollar companies that leased space in the downtown skyscraper. Prescott Personal Securities was listed at the very bottom, indicating that it was located on the top floor. Prime real estate.
Way out of your league, Nicky girl. You're suburbs. This is city. The thought came in Jonah's voice, complete with her ex-fiance's trademark smirk, which she'd found charming for entirely too long.
"Oh, shut up," she said, and stabbed the elevator call button.
Moments later, the etched copper doors parted to reveal an aquarium. Okay, so technically it was a glass-enclosed elevator car, but Nic felt distinctly guppyish as she stepped inside and several streetlevel passersby glanced in her direction.
"Keep it moving, nothing to see here," she muttered as she hit the button for the top floor. "Just a pregnant woman in a see-through box."
She wasn't showing at ten weeks, of course, but ever since the doctor had confirmed what four athome tests had already told her, she'd felt as though she had the words unmarried and knocked-up by a one-night stand tattooed across her forehead.
The elevator doors hissed shut and the car ascended with expensive smoothness. The glass floor pressed against the soles of her sneakers, seeming hard and impersonal after the give of the lobby carpet. Unease flickered when she realized there were no supporting metal braces beneath her feet. Just more glass.
"It's perfectly safe," she told herself, scrubbing her damp palms against her jeans and tugging at her pale yellow sweater set. "Don't be a wuss."
Besides, she was pretty sure the nerves had nothing to do with the elevator and everything to do with her errand. What would she say when she saw Ethan again? More importantly, what would he say?
Nic swallowed hard and forced herself to focus on the view.
The Denver streets stretched out below, gleaming in the noonday sun. Buildings rose on either side of her, then fell away as the elevator carried her above the neighboring structures. The blue sky stretched to the edge of the city bowl miles away, where the Rocky Mountains spread across the horizon. A few clouds scudded high above, and the translucent glass paneling of the elevator made it seem as though she could stretch out and touch the fluffy white vapor.
When movement flickered in her peripheral vision, she turned, expecting a bird. Instead, she saw a snub-nosed helicopter.
Her first thought was that it had to be a traffic 'copter, but the shiny black machine didn't bear the call letters of any local station. In fact, the chopper was completely unmarked, with dull black patches where its FAA identification should have been.
Nic's heart picked up when the chopper drew nearer and the thump of rotors vibrated through the glass. She craned her neck to see if a second helicopter was filming whatever was going on. A reality show, maybe, or an action movie.