Excerpt:Defending Justice

Justice Team

The bass of Hot Child in the City pounded from giant speakers as Beckett Pearson walked onto the stage and straightened his tie. Bright lights, lots of screaming women—ah, yes, he’d missed the days of walking the runway.

Not.

Being a model in college had given him extra cash. A lot of headaches as well. Beautiful, sexy headaches, but damn, tonight’s bachelor auction aside, those days were long over and he was glad.

As Nick Gilder sang about a runaway girl, the room of women watched Beck strut his stuff. The MC—Caroline Foster, a former FBI agent helping out tonight like he was—spoke over the noise, giving the potential donors his curriculum vitae.

Born and raised in Georgia, four brothers and four sisters, helped support himself in college by working as a Vogue model.

A fresh round of cheers erupted. A few catcalls echoed through the room over the heavy bass tempo.

Beck stopped and smiled, giving his fans a wave as he gritted his teeth. Yep, when Taylor got back from her vacation with Matt Stephens, Beck was going to kill her for setting him up like this.

“Hey, Beck,” she’d said with that big ol’ toothy grin of hers. “Wanna help a good cause?”

“Sign me up,” he’d replied without asking for the deets, because Taylor, head of the FBI Missing Persons Unit, and his friend, always had his back.

Big mistake. Like Grammie always said, the devil was in those pesky details.

Which was why he was doing a pseudo-Magic Mike impression tonight to raise money for the St. Agnes Women’s Shelter and Sydney Banfield. Minus removing his clothes.

Not that he didn’t want to support the shelter—he did. One hundred percent. The place offered battered women and their kids sanctuary. Sydney made sure they were safe and helped find them the services they needed. She also lined up educational opportunities and job fairs for them.

Beck just wished Taylor hadn’t volunteered him for this particular task. A bachelor auction? Really?

Suck it up. If he was going to strut his stuff and raise money for the shelter, than he was damn well going to give it everything he had.

As he hit the end of the runway and cocked a hip, Caroline mentioned the fact that along with being lead investigator of a missing persons team with the FBI, he had a genius IQ of 144.

And then the real clincher—his former defensive lineman status from his days with the University of Alabama. At her pause, Beck smiled for real at the women cheering for him. “Roll Tide!” he yelled.

His new fans went crazy.

“Bidding starts at three-hundred dollars,” Caroline said.

Three hundred? That’s it?

He couldn’t help it. He gave her a look. Caroline, being Caroline, was totally unfazed. “Did I mention that Agent Pearson is also a talented Reiki masseur?”

He nearly had to slap his hands over his ears as exuberant cheers nearly drowned out good ol’ Nick. Technically, he didn’t do massages, but whatever. This crowd couldn’t have cared less, so he struck his favorite Vogue pose, crossing his arms and placing a finger to his jaw as he made eye contact with the blonde in the first row of tables.

“Three-fifty!” she shouted.

Yep, he was definitely going to get the highest bid and the biggest donation tonight.

And he was just getting started.

Dropping his hand, he rolled his broad shoulders and unbuttoned his suit jacket, using both hands to pull the sides away from his chest. Hands on hips, he gave them a little roll and shot the brunette next to the first bidder a sexy grin.

“Five hundred!” she shouted. The blonde gave her a look, not believing her friend would bid against her.

And so it went. By the time Caroline called going once, going twice...sold!, Beck had raised  three thousand dollars. The only issue now was the fact that the woman who’d bought a date with him was the estranged wife of Byron Lockhart III.

He was about to escort the wife of the freakin’ Director of the FBI to dinner. Oh joy.

Sure they were in the midst of a divorce, but still.

Not much made Beck nervous, but meeting up with Annabelle Lockhart backstage a few minutes later had him sweating like a whore in church.

“Special Agent Beckett Pearson.” She extended a well-manicured hand. Thin and model-height in her stilettos, she could nearly look him in the eye. Impressive, since he was 6’4”. “I believe you owe me dinner.”

He guessed her age around forty, although she might have had some work done. “Yes, ma’am. Thank you for your generous donation to the shelter.”

Her red lips parted to show perfect white teeth. Either she had amazing genes or enough caps to cost as much as his townhouse. “I’m sure you’re worth every penny,” she purred. Slim fingers snaked out and raked across his chest as she leaned closer, putting her mouth close to his ear. “I can’t wait to experience your magic hands.”

Still smiling like the cat that ate the proverbial canary, she straightened, but left her hand on his shirt, dipping it down to his belt. The way she looked him over from head to toe made him feel like raw meat in front of a starving lion.

Cougar is more like it.

Even if he hadn’t been an expert in nonverbal social cues, her bold, suggestive gaze told him everything he needed to know—she expected the night of her life with a side of hot, unabashed sex for dessert. The cherry on top for Annabelle was the fact Byron would find out one of his investigators had played slap and tickle with her. The fact she’d kept the Director’s last name so far spoke volumes—she still had a thing for the man.

Can anyone say awkward?

Although Beck found her attractive, he wasn’t into casual hookups. He was thirty-two and ready for a meaningful, long-lasting relationship. Marriage, kids. The whole shebang. He wanted magic and love and all that shit. He didn’t mind being admired and lusted after—hell, he loved it—but he had no intention of being bought, and he’d hang up his cleats before he let anyone use him to get back at their almost-ex.

Make the best of it. Wining and dining Annabelle might be fun and he’d make it his mission to leave things on a good note. No sex, but she was still going to have the time of her life after shelling out three thousand dollars.

“Let me take care of everything,” he said, offering his arm. He liked taking care of people, and outside of Taylor and the other team members, he rarely got to flex his instinct to do so. Now that Taylor had Matt, he had one less person to play big brother around.

At least there’s Tink. His cat still needed him, at least as much as any feline ever needed an owner. He winked at Annabelle. “I have the perfect evening planned for us.”

The cougar licked her lips. Her arm slid through his. “Let’s stop at my place first, okay?”

It wasn’t a question. She was going in for the kill, no holds barred.

Good thing he loved a challenge. This one was going to rate right up there with the game of ’07 against LSU. Nasty one, that, but the Tide had prevailed, thanks to him.

But damn it, he was definitely going to ring Taylor’s neck come Monday.

“It’s your night, Annabelle,” he said, already strategizing how he was going to get out of sleeping with her.

 

 

About the author

Adrienne Giordano writes romantic suspense and mystery. She is a Jersey girl at heart, but now lives in the Midwest with her workaholic husband, sports obsessed son and Buddy the Wheaten Terrorist (Terrier). She is a co-founder of Romance University blog and Lady Jane’s Salon-Naperville, a reading series dedicated to romantic fiction.