a Babysitting a Billionaire novel by Nina Croft
Four years after escaping her abusive ex-husband, Kim finally believes she’s in control of her life and her emotions and she’s determined to never risk either again with a man. She has a great home, a job as a security specialist which she loves, and Jake for a best friend. But things are a tad lonely in the sex department, so she decides to embark on a no-strings-affair with one of her hot co-workers. And who better to help her remember how to lure a man than her best friend?
Jake has wanted Kim from the moment he first saw her, but four years ago, she was too young and too damaged. So he kept her close and he kept her safe, offering her a job in his security company and the training to feel safe again, and he bided his time. But now, after the long wait, if she imagines he’s going to stand by while she seduces some other guy… Never going to happen.
Title: Losing Control (Babysitting a Billionaire, #1)
Author: Nina Croft
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Length: 258 pages
Release Date: August 2013
Pricing is not guaranteed
© 2013 Nina Croft
Kim cracked open the door an inch. The outer office was in darkness.
Her intel was correct. The CEO of Knight Securities had left for the evening. And about time—it was close to midnight. She slipped through the gap, pulled the door closed behind her, then stood, her back resting against the wood as she waited for her racing pulse to slow.
Without turning on the light, she crossed the room to the door opposite. This one wouldn’t be so easy. A PIN code, as well as a more conventional lock, protected the inner sanctum of her boss.
From the bag at her waist, she pulled a small bottle of talc and puffed a fine cloud over the keypad. The white powder clung to four numbers. So far, so good. Now she just needed the correct sequence, but looking at those numbers… She knew exactly what the order would be.
She entered the PIN and grinned as the light turned from red to green. Take that, Mr. High-and-Mighty.
The next bit was the trickiest.
Kneeling on the floor, she withdrew the pick and tension wrench from her kit. Her hand shook slightly as she slid them both into the lock, and then she waited for a minute, breathing slowly until she was ready to go on. She leaned in close as she manipulated the tools.
Finally, after what seemed an eternity, she heard the small click as the first pin fell into place. Almost there. A few seconds more and the wrench turned cleanly.
Yay—she was in. One more security element to breach and she’d have that promotion in the bag. She’d worked as an operative for nearly four years now, investigating low-level threats and putting together security systems for the rich and famous, but she was ready to take her career to the next level: gun-toting, badass bodyguard.
Her best-friend-slash-boss had set the bar for her promotion pretty low when she’d told him she wanted to carry a gun. Or so she’d thought, right up until the first time she’d tried to break into his safe. Now on her fifth attempt in as many months, she was more determined than ever to outwit the infuriating man once and for all.
As she pushed open the door to his office, she slid the goggles down over her eyes. Instantly the world changed. Beams of red light crisscrossed the room, separating her from the goal: the safe hidden inside the cabinet behind the desk.
The first beam was a mere foot above the ground and she easily stepped over it, then ducked under the second. The third was tricky, and she hesitated. Over or under? She lifted her foot, stretched her leg—
“Looking for something?”
She jumped as the deep male voice skittered along her spine, then lost her balance and crashed to the floor. Alarms jangled, lights flashed. Chaos reigned.
“Shit,” she cursed.
Kim lay on her back and gritted her teeth until everything went quiet, the flashing lights stopped, and the main overhead light came on. Then she pushed the goggles from her eyes and sat up.
Jake Knight lounged in the open doorway, arms folded across his chest. Dressed all in black, he looked lean, mean, and vaguely menacing. The image spoiled only by the mocking smile on his handsome face.
She waggled her fingers at him. “Hi there, boss. Why aren’t you at home?” Where he was supposed to be.
His lips twitched. “I had a feeling something…urgent was going down in my office.”
“Nope. Only little old me.” What had given her away? The problem was, Jake knew her too well. He probably hadn’t bought it when she’d offered to stay late to take a client interview so he could get an early night. “By the way,” she said, “cute move using my birthday as the PIN code.”
“I like to give you a fighting chance.”
She rolled her eyes.
He strolled across the room and came to a halt a foot away, hands thrust in his pockets, that lazy smile still curving his lips.
Yeah, she was so funny. And she’d failed.
Crap. At this rate, she’d never get her promotion.
“So,” Jake said. “What do we do with you?”
“Don’t you think breaking into my office deserves a little… retribution?”
Kim scrambled to her feet and brushed herself off. “I’d like to see you try.”
“You think I couldn’t take you?”
She tipped her chin up. “I could kick your ass.”
Probably a lie. Okay, definitely a lie. She was good, but she was also only five foot nine and Jake had six inches on her. Plus, he was twice as broad at the shoulder. However hard she trained, she could never match that. All the same, his smug expression was starting to piss her off.
Without giving herself a chance to think this was a really bad idea, she whirled around and kicked out, but Jake caught her boot before she could connect with an ease that made her curse, leaving her balancing on one foot.
He stepped forward, his long fingers still wrapped around her ankle. Kim had no choice but to hop backward until she hit the wall behind her. “Let me go.”
“Say please and I might.”
He studied her for a moment and seemed about to say something, then shrugged and released her.
As soon as she was free, she kicked out again, this time trying to swipe his legs from under him. He sidestepped, then moved in close, his hands braced on the wall on either side of her head, caging her in. Her lungs filled with the scent of him—warm man and spicy citrus.
“Yield,” he ordered.
“No fucking way.”
He urged her back against the wall, moving his body in hard against hers until his chest pressed against her breasts.
A tingle ran through her, settling low in her belly.
That was so not right—this was Jake.
Kim hadn’t thought much about sex in the four years since her divorce, and she really didn’t need to start thinking about it now. And certainly not with Jake.
He was close enough that she could see the faint shadow of stubble darkening his jawline, the midnight blue of his eyes behind the thick fringe of lashes daring her to push him further.
The tingle became a heat that spread slowly out from her center.
What the hell was going on?
Jake lowered his head and his warm breath brushed her cheek. Her own breath sounded ragged in her ears and adrenaline surged through her system.
“Yield,” he said again, so close now she could feel the word against her skin.
She swallowed hard. “Okay, okay. I yield.”
She hated to give in, but what choice did she have? Because for one surreal moment there, she’d been convinced Jake was about to kiss her.
And kissing Jake was not an option.
Thursday night was movie night at Jake’s penthouse apartment and had been for most of the four years she’d known him. Kim didn’t think movies had featured much in Jake’s life before then—he usually didn’t sit still long enough, so she liked to believe she’d brought a little culture into his world.
Well, as much “culture” as one could attribute to a Terminator movie. Jake was too serious and needed someone to get him to relax and just enjoy doing nothing.
That was her job, and she was glad for a chance to get back on a normal footing with him since her foiled break-in attempt last week. She’d managed to convince herself that the almost-kiss had been a figment of her overactive imagination.
Of course, Jake wouldn’t kiss her—why would he?
All the same, things had been a little weird. And if she’d just heard him correctly, their relationship was still far from normal.
“You expect me to wear a what?” She’d been admiring the view from the floor-to-ceiling windows—the whole of London spread out below her. Now, she spun to face him. “Are you serious?”
He looked serious. But you never could tell with Jake—he’d perfected the art of deadpan long ago.
Lounging back in his huge black leather sofa, long legs stretched out in front of him, he returned her scrutiny, his dark-blue eyes examining her in minute detail. Kim shifted from foot to foot, never quite comfortable with the full force of his concentration focused on her.
Jake caught the movement and quirked his lips in obvious amusement. She hated that.
“Oh, yeah,” he drawled. “I’m deadly serious. The job came in last thing today. It’s a favor for a friend, and there were no other female operatives available.”
“Well, thank you for making me feel like a last resort. And where exactly do you expect me to get a dress?”
He gave an exaggerated sigh. “I don’t suppose there’s much point in suggesting your wardrobe?”
Kim raised an eyebrow; the question wasn’t even worthy of an answer.
“I thought not. That being the case, a dress shop would be the obvious choice. Don’t worry.” He held up a hand to preempt her next argument. “You can put it on the expense account. I don’t expect you to purchase such a superfluous item out of your own pocket.” He gave her another long look. “The assignment is security detail at a fashion party. I want you to blend in. So absolutely nothing in camouflage or khaki.”
Kim plucked at the cotton of her khaki combat pants. She thought they were pretty nifty, and teamed with Doc Martens and a black T-shirt, her outfit was both comfortable and durable. However, she had to agree that an element of glamour was missing.
From Jake’s expression, he thought so as well. “Actually,” he continued, “it’s probably best if I come shopping with you.”
“You don’t trust me, do you?”
“Kim, I’d trust you with my life. But with something as complicated and contrary to your nature as buying a dress? No, I’m afraid I don’t.”
A warm glow washed over her. Jake trusted her with his life? She couldn’t believe how good the first sentence made her feel. Good enough to let the second pass, anyway.
“Okay, I think it’s above and beyond the call of duty, but I’ll come peacefully. But”—she glanced down at herself ruefully—“I suspect you’re going to have your work cut out for you trying to make me look glamorous.”
Still, she wouldn’t turn down any job that might prove she deserved a promotion.
Jake had originally employed her as receptionist in the security company he’d set up shortly after he’d left the army. That had been four years now, and right from the start, the actual security work had fascinated Kim. The thought of learning to fight, to defend herself, sent a thrill of excitement through her. She’d taken classes in mixed martial arts, trained every day until she could hold her own with just about anyone in the company—except Jake.
She had one particularly pleasant daydream of coming across her ex-husband, Michael, and flooring him with a smooth kung fu–like kick. The thought always had the power to cheer her up.
She sank into the far corner of the sofa, unlaced her boots, and kicked them off. “So, do I get to wear a gun on Saturday?” she asked hopefully.
“No, you get to wear a dress.”
“Super.” Kim hadn’t expected a positive answer anyway. It wasn’t fair—she was the best shot in the company. Jake knew that, but he still refused to promote her to that last elusive grade, the grade that would allow her to carry a gun and do the more dangerous work. Instead, he’d set that damned test: break into his office and steal the contents of his safe, and then he’d consider it. Unfortunately, Jake used his office to test out new security gadgets.
But she wouldn’t give up yet.
She didn’t actually want to shoot anyone… Well, unless it was her ex. But something was driving her to prove to Jake she was ready to be seen as an equal. It would be the final proof that she was in control of her life.
“I’ll get in there in the end, you know.”
His lips curled into a slow smile. “Never going to happen.”
“I would have gotten in last time if you hadn’t been sneaky and pretended to go home.”
“Maybe, but I’m thinking of getting a retinal or fingerprint scanner fitted—virtually impregnable.”
She considered him, her gaze lingering on his long fingers, then his dark-blue eyes. “I wouldn’t do that.”
“Because then I’d need a body part, and I’d hate to permanently maim you just to get a promotion.”
He grinned. “But you’d do it?”
“Hell, yeah. I deserve that grade.”
Curling her legs under her, she tugged absently on the end of her ponytail. It occurred to her—once she overcame her natural antipathy at being told what to do—that changing her image fit quite neatly with her own plans. Though she hadn’t considered anything quite as drastic as a dress, just something to make her appear a little more feminine.
She’d been on edge since that night in his office. For some reason, after four years of never thinking about it, she couldn’t get sex off her mind. Eventually, she’d accepted that it was merely hormones—an itch that needed scratching. And by scratching it, she’d not only get rid of the itch, but would also have the final proof that she was totally over her asshole of an ex-husband.
She wasn’t looking for love or happily ever after. Her parents and then Michael had done an excellent job of curing her of those fantasies. But maybe a no-strings affair.
All she needed was someone suitable. He had to be attractive, convenient, he wouldn’t want anything more than sex, and he wouldn’t be upset to say good-bye when she was ready to cut him loose.
Kim even had a potential candidate in mind.
She worked in a building heaving with testosterone-charged men, but not one of them had ever so much as flirted with her. It didn’t matter that up until now she hadn’t wanted them to. The point was she was a woman, and at least some of them should have tried. She suspected Jake had something to do with scaring them off—he was way too protective of her. But Steve, her potential target, had only recently joined the company and hadn’t yet developed the male attitude of pretending she was part of the furniture. He was her best bet, and all she needed was a little cooperation from Jake.
“So. Security detail at a party,” she said. “Who’s my partner going to be? Who’s going to get the benefit of this new, glamorous me?” She tried for an ingenuous smile. “I think Steve would be good, don’t you?”
“Steve?” Jake’s eyes narrowed; she should have known he wouldn’t go for the ingenuous look.
“You know—the new guy. Tall, dark—”
“I know who he is, and you’re going with Dave.”
Kim scowled. “Dave’s married.” Not to mention he had a seven-months-pregnant wife—definitely not a candidate for her itch-scratching position.
“What the hell has that got to do with anything?” His feet hit the floor.
Kim contemplated telling him, but his expression persuaded her otherwise. While Jake had helped out with just about every aspect of her life as she pulled herself together slowly after her disastrous marriage, she could hardly expect him to take on her love life, or rather complete lack of love life, as well. She quashed her disappointment.
“I’ll be at the party,” he said.
“You will? You’re working?”
“No, I’m going as a guest. With Nadia.”
“Oh.” Kim muttered the word in disgust. She’d never had a particularly high opinion of Jake’s women, but she reckoned he’d reached an all-time low with Nadia.
He quirked a brow. “What does ‘oh’ mean?”
“Well, you know me, I don’t normally like to stereotype anyone—not even your girlfriends—but for Nadia I have to make an exception. I get that she’s a model, but does that mean she has to be a complete airhead? Not to mention a little on the wacky side.”
His eyes glinted with amusement. But really, Nadia wasn’t funny.
“Yeah, wacky. She actually came up to me last week and asked what you wore in bed.” Kim rolled her eyes. “Wouldn’t she be more likely to know that than me?”
Jake didn’t answer, and Kim dropped the subject. Nadia didn’t matter—Jake’s girlfriends never lasted long.
She cast him a sideways glance. He’d obviously showered and changed since he’d gotten back from the office. His hair was still damp, he was dressed in his usual relaxing gear of black sweats and a black T-shirt, and his feet were bare.
In some ways, it was a pity about the whole sex-with-Jake-not-an-option thing. On the surface, he was an ideal contender for her itch-scratching position, ticking nearly all the boxes on her list.
For a start, he was way beyond attractive. With his thick, dark hair that always looked sexily ruffled like some woman had just run her fingers through it, his high cheekbones, strong, straight nose, and beautifully stern mouth. He was six feet three inches of lean, mean, drool-worthy man.
Secondly, he was convenient. They not only worked together, but lived in the same apartment building. Jake up here in the penthouse, while she had a more modest one-bedroom apartment way below him.
Thirdly, he’d never want more than sex—Jake didn’t do commitment. He was her role model.
Ultimately, though, he failed the biggest requirement because saying good-bye to Jake afterward would not be an option. He was her best friend. And even if he’d shown interest in her in a sexual way, Kim wouldn’t risk losing his friendship over something that could only be temporary.
He was far too important to her.
She glanced up and found him watching her intently. “What?” she asked.
“Just wondering what was going through that brain of yours.”
She tossed him a bright smile. “I was trying to decide when you’re going to admit I’m as good at the job as any of the guys, and it’s not fair to keep me off the interesting cases.”
“The interesting cases are also the most dangerous ones.”
“That’s what makes them interesting,” she answered, annoyed that she should have to explain this to a man whose hobbies included skydiving and mountain climbing.
“Let’s see how you perform on Saturday.”
When Kim opened her mouth, he continued, “Don’t argue. I’m being patient here. But I’m not a nice man, and you’d be wise not to forget that.”
A shiver of unease ran through her. Why would he tell her he wasn’t nice? Though he didn’t look nice; in fact, dressed all in black and with a reckless glint in his hooded eyes, he looked like a thoroughly bad character. But Kim knew that deep down, Jake was a total marshmallow—he just preferred that the rest of the world saw his crispy, burned edges. It helped in his line of business.
She scoffed, “You’ve always been nice to me.”
“Perhaps where you’re concerned, I have my motives.”
She knew what those motives were. He still felt sorry for her. Kim started to speak, but Jake waved her off. “Movie time.” He flicked a switch at his side and part of the wall opposite slid open to reveal a huge widescreen TV.
Kim heaved a sigh just to show she wasn’t happy, but then reached for the bowl of popcorn at her side. For the next ninety minutes, she did her best to concentrate on the film, but there was a horrible uneasy niggling in her stomach.
As the closing credits appeared, she turned to Jake. “About these motives. You want to give me a hint?”
“Not yet. But soon.”
Was he ever going to see her as a strong, independent woman and not the pathetic divorcée he’d first hired? Well, she’d just make it her mission to show him she had more than a little badass in her as well…
Jake followed Kim through the department store, admiring her long, leggy figure and the sway of her khaki-clad ass as she sauntered along in front of him. How in the hell had he ended up in love with a woman who thought—and he quoted her here—“love was for dickheads”?
When he’d first met her, she’d been slightly plump and so sweet he’d wanted to rip that bastard of a husband of hers into pieces. Four years later, she had the lean lines of a catwalk model with absolutely none of the self-awareness. She had no clue what she did to him. Did she honestly think he made a habit of taking his operatives dress shopping?
He smiled grimly as he remembered her expression when he’d mentioned the dress thing. She could hardly have looked more incredulous if he’d suggested she strip naked, bend herself over the back of the sofa, and allow him to screw her brains out. One of his more frequent recurring fantasies during movie night.
Occasionally, he picked up a dress and handed it to the sales assistant who trailed behind him. He spotted a pink one and added it to the pile just to piss Kim off.
“You’d better go with her,” he said to the assistant when they reached the dressing rooms. “Left to herself, she’ll probably put them on backward.” He took a seat opposite the cubicle, crossed one leg over his knee, and prepared to be entertained.
“He’s a bit forceful, your boyfriend, isn’t he?” The assistant commented as they disappeared into the room.
“He’s a bit of a patronizing ass,” Kim muttered. “And he’s not my boyfriend, he’s my boss.”
Then the curtains closed behind them, muffling the sound of their voices.
Jake ran a hand through his hair. He’d wanted Kim from the first moment they’d met. But back then she’d been too young and too damaged. She’d needed a friend, not a lover. So he’d pushed those feelings to the back of his mind, and he’d kept her safe and kept her close, and he’d bided his time.
He could remember the exact moment he realized his friendship had turned to love. They’d been at his place, taking in a movie. Kim usually picked action films—lots of blood and guts—but somehow a romantic comedy had slipped through the net.
Watching the film with Kim sprawled on the sofa at his side, the sweet smell of toffee popcorn in the air, he’d had some sort of epiphany.
He’d be quite happy to spend the rest of his life beside her. Even watching chick flicks.
He’d always been restless—ready to move on, easily bored—but with Kim, he felt at peace. He loved her. Really loved her. Her bravery and her honesty, the way she stood up to him, the way she was willing to try to kick his ass when she thought he deserved it, even though she knew she couldn’t win.
He’d turned as the closing credits rolled over the screen, ready to pour out his heart. He’d opened his mouth to spill tender words of love—
“What a total load of bollocks,” she’d muttered with complete contempt. “If I ever show any signs of going all mushy like that, you have my permission to put a bullet in my brain. Not,” she added, taking a last mouthful of popcorn, “that it’s ever going to happen.”
That was four months ago. In the time since, he’d searched for a way to break through the protective armor she wrapped around herself. So far, he’d failed dismally. It was clear she saw him as nothing more than a friend. But when she started to show some interest in Steve, his new hire, he realized it was time to step up his game before he lost her altogether.
He hadn’t been able to think about sleeping with another woman since he’d realized he loved Kim. Nadia was nothing but camouflage to keep him from looking like a complete miserable bastard.
So no sex in over four months. Fucking hell.
Finally, the curtains opened, and Kim stood there as he’d never seen her before, glaring at him and looking breathtaking.
He didn’t take much of the dress in, just that it was black and that Jake could clearly make out the shape of her breasts beneath the material, small and perky.
She tugged at her long, dark ponytail—a sure sign she was nervous.
Ignoring him, she stalked out of the cubicle to stand in front of the full-length mirror opposite. The dress skimmed her narrow waist, her flat belly, and the slight curve of her ass. A stab of lust shot to his groin, and he shifted in his chair.
Smoothing the material over her hips, she flashed an unexpected grin over her shoulder. “Hey, I clean up okay.” She turned to one side, then the other. The dress was slit to the thigh and one long, slender leg peeked out. Her feet were bare. Jake stared, willing his desire to subside so his brain could function again.
“You know,” she murmured not quite to herself, “I bet Steve would love me in this dress.”
Over my dead body. The thought flashed through Jake’s mind, followed by a much more acceptable alternative. Or Steve’s. He’d had just about enough of this “Steve” shit.
Kim finally turned to face him, hands on hips. “Will it do?”
He motioned with his fingers for her to do a twirl.
She scowled and spun. “Well?”
“Maybe. I’ll let you know when I’ve seen the others.”
Kim swirled and marched back to the dressing room. He could almost hear her teeth grinding, but he needed her out of here so he had a moment to pull himself back together from that little bombshell. And she thought she was going to go after another guy under his nose, did she? Abso-fucking-lutely not.
A minute later, an outraged squawk came from behind the curtain. “No freaking way!”
Jake grinned. The sales assistant must have given Kim the pink dress. Five minutes later, she ripped the curtain aside.
Jake bit back a whistle. The material was skintight and hugged every line and curve of her body, leaving nothing to the imagination.
“I’ll warn you now,” Kim said, poking a finger in his direction. “If you choose this one, I won’t be taking my coat off. So if you want me to blend in, I suggest you think again.”
Jake dragged his gaze from her nipples, clearly visible and pointing straight at him. “Come here.”
He sighed impatiently. “Can you never do anything without questioning it?”
“Please come here, Kimberly.”
She approached until she stood only inches from his seat and glowered down at him, her golden eyes flashing.
“Actually,” he said, “I like you in pink. Very pretty.”
“Hah hah. Finished?”
Kim turned and sashayed back to the changing room.
The back view was as good as the front. Jake watched her go, unable to pull his eyes from the sway of her ass clearly defined under the tight, clingy material and powerless to prevent his body’s response.
He sat a moment longer waiting for the fierce burn of desire to subside, then rose from his seat and approached the changing room.
“The black will do, Kim,” he called out.
Kim’s head appeared around the curtain. “You don’t want to see the other three?”
“No. The first one was fine.”
“Oh dear, and I was having so much fun,” she mocked. “Sure I can’t tempt you into one more? The red perhaps? I’ve always considered red to be my color.”
He ignored the sarcasm. “Another day.”
Jake reckoned he was one sexy outfit away from letting everyone know his intentions. And that probably wouldn’t go down too well in a busy department store.
But yeah, it was time to reveal his motives, and he was guessing that his not-so-little Kimberly was in for a shock with what was about to come next.