CreateSpace Publishing / Lucy Monroe
Originally published: 05/26/09
Current publication: 01-10-18
Super spy Mykola Chernichenko comes from a family of geniuses, and though he’s no idiot himself, he’d rather be where the action is than analyze it to death. That’s why his vacation has just been cut short by a call to get two of his siblings out of some serious trouble—while protecting a nerdy scientist who’s latest project could change the world. . .and get her killed.
The guy who’d rather act than think guarding an egghead in a lab coat? Myk would appreciate the irony more if he weren’t so busy trying to figure out how, exactly, to get under said lab coat. Because Lana Ericson just happens to be the hottest thing working the scientific method since, well, ever. Myk has a feeling Lana’s laser-like focus would translate to something equally intense in the bedroom. And if she’s as curious about him, Myk might just be willing to donate his body to science—each and every night. . .
Originally published June 2009 in trade paperback and eBook by Kensington Brava.
“Monroe thrills with her latest “super spy,” Mykola Chernichenko. This bad boy is hot-wired to warm readers’ chilly nights. Not only is Mykola confident, he’s sweet and understanding of Lana’s eccentricities. This title is destined to be a favorite for anyone who loves a sexy spy. It’s simply a bonus that readers are already familiar with the Chernichenko family from Monroe’s previous works! – See more at: Romantic Times Book Review
“I truly enjoyed “Watch Over Me”, Lucy Monroe’s latest book in her ‘Goddard Project Agency’ series about Alpha male former mercenary heroes and the women who semi-tame them. Monroe is one of those authors I count on to deliver a story I’ll enjoy, without having to deal with ‘too’ much reality in the form of death and destruction. She also delivers the heat without fail!<snipped for size>How wonderful to read a story about a socially inept, non-physically perfect female. Haven’t we all felt that way at one time or another? For me, it’s just the latest example of how Monroe writes characters I can relate to in some way, and then makes me care for them and their lives. Her hot bad boy heroes don’t hurt either!!
“Watch Over Me” was another winner for me. I read it while on vacation and it was the perfect beach read–not too tense, not too serious, not too long. Just me, my mai tai, the pool, and this book. AHHH.” jjmachshev , amazon.com reader review (click link for full review)
“Lucy Monroe’s Watch Over Me is a compelling book of top notch romance and suspense. <snipped for size>Lucy Monroe does another fantastic book that will keep you enthralled from beginning to end. The characters are well rounded and compelling. The writing is crisp and flowing. You can’t go wrong in this latest book by the talented Lucy Monroe.” Judy, amazon.com reader review
“Death is overrated, asshole.”
Myk waited to see if the bastard he had pinned to the wall was going to heed the warning he’d whispered. It took a few seconds, but the massive body in front of him relaxed into a universal pose of submission.
“Good choice.” Myk used the arm he had bent to center of the would-be attacker’s back to turn him around and face the woman.
He and his friends had been terrorizing the brunette in the alley. Unfortunately for them, the restaurant Myk had an upcoming meeting in backed up to the alley and he liked to case his environment.
The other man’s cohorts littered the wet pavement of the alley. Myk hadn’t killed any of them, but they wouldn’t be waking up any time soon either.
“I believe you owe the lady an apology.” Myk thought his tone was conversational, but the guy flinched.
Myk increased the pressure on the man’s arm, just short of breaking it.
The man gasped. “We shouldn’t have scared you like that,” he said, sounding a hell of a lot more sincere.
The woman, who from her dress, was probably a waitress for the restaurant glared. “No, duh, asshole.”
Myk almost smiled. She was no pushover. She’d obviously been scared, but she’d been yelling invective at the men tormenting her when Myk had arrived. “Did you want to call 911?”
“Already done.” Anger radiated from the two words. “These jerks aren’t getting away with what they’ve been doing.”
“They’ve messed with you before?” Myk’s muscles twitched, sending his fist into the belly of the last man standing.
The man grunted, knees buckling until the pain in his arm forced him to remain standing.
The angry brunette nodded. “And the other waitresses too.”
“You’ll press charges?” he asked. A lot of women wouldn’t.
“Oh, yeah. My girl is on the force and she’s going to enjoy nailing the hides of these lowlife bastards to the wall.”
The sound of sirens could be heard now. The man Myk held immobile was blathering about having apologized between whimpers of pain. As if saying he was sorry could make it all better. Idiot.
“You look like your sister,” a smooth, cultured male voice said from the darkness behind the restaurant.
With a quick flick of his wrist, Myk incapacitated the would-be attacker. Letting the man fall to the pavement , he turned toward where the voice had come from. “Whitmore?”
“In the flesh.” But the man did not step out of the shadows.
Smart. But then that was to be expected from the director of the ultra secret Goddard Project agency.
Myk turned to the woman. “If the police want my statement, have them call this number.” He handed her a business card with his cell phone number on it and nothing else.
The sound of the sirens grew and a police car swept into the alley with squealing tires.
“I have a meeting.”
Myk didn’t wait to hear what she would have said. He’d done what needed doing. The woman called out her thanks as Myk blended into the shadows, assuming his contact from TGP was following him.
They were a block away from the restaurant when Myk spoke again. “Where to now?”
“You like Vietnamese?”
“If the cook is from Vietnam, yeah.”
“Take a right at the corner.”
The Vietnamese restaurant turned out to be a hole in the wall, literally. No window on the street, just a door that opened into a dimly lit room with a handful of tables in the center and a smattering of booths around the edges. Andrew Whitmore led Myk to one in a dark corner.
Myk sat angled so that he could see both the restaurant and the swinging door leading into the kitchen. After the last eighteen months, the habit of taking the least vulnerable position was ingrained. He doubted it would ever leave him.
“Nice,” he said, meaning the appropriateness of the restaurant for their meeting.
He was more comfortable in the shadows than the sunlight. Damn, that made him sound like a Vampire, or something. And really? All he was – was an INS agent. At least he had been.
One who had been chosen for a deep cover assignment in conjunction with the DEA because he’d been the lucky bastard to discover the connection between a particular slave run and a nasty drug cartel.
No, he’d never been able to content himself with just doing his job as a border patrol agent, but had to follow his instincts to deeper and uglier things. He followed those instincts one too many times and got noticed by the guys in the suits.
It was only a matter of time after that before he’d had his first undercover assignment. That one had only lasted a few weeks, but it had led to information that warranted a long term, deep cover investigation. He’d gotten the promotion and the assignment that resulted in more than a year living amidst people that were cruel, vindictive and amoral. Those were just the hirelings.
The leader of that particular cartel was a true sociopath whose death had not caused a single regret for Myk. No, Myk’s nightmares came from an entirely different source.
Whitmore nodded, bringing Myk’s thoughts back from a hell he wanted to stop visiting. “The food is good, but the privacy this place affords is even better, not that the other restaurant wouldn’t have been just as good. However, I do not think we would have been able to meet uninterrupted after your altercation in the alley.”
“It needed doing.” He had been in the position where he could do something, so he had.
“You sound like your sister.”
“Do I?” For some reason, that surprised him.
He knew Elle was, or had been, a federal agent. Yet he had never considered she might have been a whole lot different on the job than she was around the family. He should have.
He’d never threatened to kill one of his siblings…and meant it.
Clearly Elle had a different side to her as well.
“Yes, the physical family resemblance is apparent as well.”
“If you say so.” Personally, he didn’t see it.
His brothers were both taller than his own six-foot-three and had the muscular builds of defensive linemen. His body might bulge with muscle too, but it was a lot leaner. They all shared the same dark hair though, including Elle. However, she had gray eyes, like Roman and their mother while he had brown – the same as his oldest brother, Mat, their mother and their baby sister, Danusia.
But those superficial similarities aside, he’d never thought he had much in common with his family, either physically or under the surface.
After what he’d learned of Elle’s job, he’d had to re-evaluate that belief. But she still hadn’t seen the kind of ugliness he’d lived with on a daily basis for the last year and a half. Even before going undercover, he’d seen stuff on border patrol that taught him to control a lot more than just his gag reflex.
Even so, when he’d first gone undercover, his marks disgusted him to the point of nausea on a daily basis. Men and women that would kill and torture for profit, that would use children for that same filthy profit. Not only selling them as slaves, but using them to carry drugs across borders. Inside body cavities, in their stomachs – whatever worked.
No one cared about the risks or pain inflicted on the children. No one but him and he’d had to learn to turn it off. His emotions. His horror. His need to protect each child.
Oh, he’d done what he could, but ultimately? He’d done his job. He and the DEA agent assigned to the case had brought the whole ring down, their leader dying in the final showdown. Unfortunately, that truth hadn’t mitigated the cost to the innocent.
Now, he was faced with another “found” assignment. He should be on vacation, relaxing on a warm beach somewhere far from child slavery rings, drug runners and sadistic assholes that liked their jobs in both. But no, his family needed him.
“Elle is in deep shit.” And she didn’t have a clue.
“Your message requesting this meet implied something of the sort.”
“Yeah.” Going through the files confiscated after the final sting on his latest assignment, he’d discovered something that still had the power to send chills down his spine.
Some very bad people were interested in the work of Dr. Lana Ericson, Project Manager for Material Transformation at Environmental Technology Research and Design. That in itself wouldn’t have concerned Myk so much. He would have been more than willing to pass the information off to suits and let them deal with it.
But there was the small complication of his brother Mat working for the same company. Collateral damage could be a bitch. In addition, and at this point in time, more importantly, his sister Elle was the security consultant who had developed the new high grade security measures for ETRD. To further complicate matters, she was also engaged to marry one of the company’s project managers.
Both pieces of information had been in the file Myk had found – along with the notation that Elle was the initial target. In what and for what, he could only guess at. All he had to go on was a copy of Dr. Ericson’s research along with some notes she’d made in the margin.
Attached to the top of that stack of papers had been a cheerful yellow sticky note that incongruously said: First target – Elle Gray.
It was all he had to go on, but for Myk that was plenty. His family was in danger and that was unacceptable.
Myk told Whitmore what he’d found. “I don’t know whether they want Elle for the information she has on the security system—“
“Or if they intend to eliminate her and the threat she poses to any attempt they might make on gathering further intel and a usable formula,” Whit said.
“Did you call her?”
“Yes, but she thinks she’s impervious.” His little sister had coolly informed him that risks like the one he’d told her about came with her job and she took her own measures to circumvent them.
“She’s a damn fine agent.”
“She was an agent. Until you fired her.” And good, or not, no one was bulletproof.
Whitmore sighed, looking chagrined. “I didn’t have a choice.”
“Everyone has choices.”
“True. And your sister made hers. She could have continued working for TGP.”
“Out of the field.”
“We all have to retire from fieldwork sooner, or later.”
“She’s only twenty-eight, that’s hardly the age for retirement.”
“It all depends on what you want out of life.”
“Are you saying you retired that early?”
A naked look of regret crossed Whitmore’s features. “No.” His expression going impassive with just a hint of warmth, the agency director put his hand out to shake. “Call me Whit.”
Myk just looked at the grey haired man with eyes that saw too much and revealed too little.
Whit smiled, not dropping his hand. “I have a feeling we’re going to be working closely together.”
“You were my last resort.” No matter how happy Elle was now, Myk was pissed as hell at the man who had fired his little sister from her job. And he wouldn’t have approached Andrew Whitmore for help if there had been any other choice.
Whit said, “The INS doesn’t have a material concern in the matter.”
“Right. No illegal aliens.”
The DEA had been a little more willing to take ownership of the problem, but they’d made it clear that they couldn’t give the situation top priority. It was a matter of resources and they just didn’t have a team to assign to a situation that had not yet developed.
Hence his trip to Washington, D.C. and this meeting.
“Are you on a leave of absence?”
Surprise flitted across Whit’s face. “I would have thought you’d want to be on the case.”
“I have every intention of being the agent in charge.” Which is why he’d quit his job with the INS.
Whit’s brow lifted before a satisfied expression settled on his face. His hand extended further across the table. “Welcome to The Goddard Project, Mykola Chernichenko.”
Myk shook the man’s hand, making his pact with the devil’s hindmost.
Lana adjusted the angle on the microscope. Yes. Right there. Perfect. “Amazing.”
She reached out blindly for the stylus to her handheld. Got it. She started taking notes on the screen without looking away from the microscope.
Lana jumped, bumping her cheekbone on the microscope’s eyepiece before falling backward, hitting a wall that hadn’t been there when she’d come into work that morning.
Strong hands set her firmly on her feet as she realized the wall was warm and made of flesh and muscle. Lots and lots of muscle.
Stumbling back a step, she looked up and then up some more. The dark-haired hottie in front of her was as tall as her colleague, Beau Ruston. Or close to it anyway. She fumbled with her glasses, sliding them on her nose. They didn’t help. Reading glasses for the computer, they only served to make her feel more disoriented.
She squinted, then remembered and pulled the glasses off again, letting them dangle by their chain around her neck. “Um, hello? Did I know you were visiting my lab?”
She was fairly certain she hadn’t. She forgot appointments sometimes. Okay, often, but she always remembered eventually. And this man hadn’t made an appointment with her. She was sure of it. He didn’t look like a scientist either.
Not that all scientists were as unremarkable as she was in the looks department, but this man was another species entirely.
He looked dangerous and sexy. Enough so that he would definitely replace chemical formulas in her dreams at night. His black hair was a little too long and looked like he’d run his fingers through it, not a comb. That was just so bad boy. She had a secret weakness for bad boys.
Even bigger than the secret weakness she’d harbored for Beau Ruston before he’d met Elle.
She had posters of James Dean and Matt Dillon on the wall of her bedroom and had seen “Rebel without a Cause” a whopping thirty-six times.
Unlike James Dean, this yummy bad boy even had pierced ears. Only instead of sedate studs or small hoops, he had tiny black plugs. Only a bit bigger than a pair of studs, the plugs were recessed in his lobes. They had the Chinese Kanji for strength etched on them in silver. Or pewter maybe. It wasn’t shiny.
The earrings were hot. Just like him.
He looked like the kind of man who had a tattoo. Nothing colorful. Something black and meaningful. She wanted to see it. Too bad she couldn’t just ask.
Interpersonal interaction had so many taboos. It wasn’t like science where you dug for answers without apology.
The stranger had a strong jaw too, squared and accented by a close-cropped beard that went under, not across his chin. No mustache. His lips were set in a straight line, but they still looked like they’d be Heaven to kiss.
Not that she’d kissed a lot of lips, but she was twenty-nine. Even a geeky scientist didn’t make it to the shy side of thirty without a few kisses along the way. And other stuff. Not that the other stuff was all that spectacular. She’d always wondered if that was her fault or the men she’d chosen to partner.
It didn’t take a shrink to identify the fact that Lana had trust issues. With her background, who wouldn’t?
Still, people had been known to betray family, love and country for sex. She wouldn’t cross a busy street to get some. Or maybe she would, if this stranger was waiting on the other side.
The fact that she could measure the time since she’d last had sex in years rather than months, weeks or days – which would be a true miracle – wasn’t something she enjoyed dwelling on. She blamed it on her work.
However, every feminine instinct that was usually sublimated by her passion for her job was on red alert now.
“Dr. Ericson. Lana.”
She waved her hand at the noise buzzing in her ear, not wanting to look away from the tight black t-shirt that clung to a definite six-pack and leather jeans that molded to muscular thighs and an impressive package. She liked that word. Package.
It sounded so naughty and implied a man’s member was some kind of present waiting for a woman to open it. His was getting bigger by the second.
Oh my. She wanted to open that pressie. Considering the disappointment she’d had in the past by that particular type of gift, her desire surprised her. But then she’d never been this close to a living, breathing embodiment of her fantasies either.
A very pointed throat clearing happened near her ear.
She tried waving her hand again, but it was caught this time.
“No,” she said firmly.
She definitely didn’t have an appointment with this guy.
One dark brow quirked, but he had yet to say anything.
Lana’s head snapped up again and she saw that the stranger was accompanied by others. Her boss, Frank Ingram, and ETRD’s security consultant, Elle Gray.
The tall, super model beautiful woman was the one who’d grabbed Lana’s hand. Was it fair that Elle could incapacitate a man twice her size, was probably as smart as Lana – well close to – and was that amazing looking?
The only amazing thing about Lana was her brain.
Wincing at her thoughts as well as the small throb below her left eye from her run-in with the microscope, she said, “There was no need to shout, Frank.”
Elle shook her head and laughed. “You were staring, Lana. Hard. At unmentionable places.”
Oh, those pesky taboos again. Men got away with staring at breasts all the time, but a woman, particularly a geeky scientist wasn’t supposed to stare at a man’s crotch. Still. “I was studying. It’s what I do.”
“You study men?” the stranger asked in a voice that made her thighs clench.
If he could do that with his voice, what would he be able to do with other things? Maybe show her what all the fuss was about finally?
“I study everything.”
Frank chuckled. It was an indulgent sound, one that she seemed to bring out in him more than the other scientists on ETRD’s staff. “To the exclusion of noticing anything else around you. Hence the shouting.”
She sighed, knowing her boss had a point. “I’m sorry, Frank.” Meeting the dark brown depths of the stranger’s eyes, she stifled a second sigh. “I also apologize if I made you uncomfortable.”
She’d been told she did that sometimes. It was one of the many reasons she preferred her lab over social settings. Really, really preferred.
He adjusted his stance just a little. “Uncomfortable isn’t the word I’d use.”
Elle groaned. “Myk, you are so bad. Baba would slap you with the wooden spoon.”
Things clicked together in Lana’s extremely productive brain. “You two are related. He’s your brother. Mykola, the one closest to you in age and an INS agent. You haven’t seen him in over a year and you’re hoping he gets along with Beau as well as Mat does.”
Mykola turned a less than pleased look on his sister. “When did you get to be such a blabbermouth?”
Elle rolled her eyes. “Don’t be an idiot. Lana remembers everything she hears, even in passing.”
“And she puts it together like she does her formulas.” Frank smiled proudly. “I bet she knows the name of my podiatrist.”
“You don’t have a podiatrist. There’s nothing wrong with your feet, but have you considered seeing an allergist? I think you may have allergy induced asthma brought on by something in Nisha’s lab.” She’d been meaning to mention that for a while, but had gotten sidetracked.
More than once.
It was the story of her life.
She’d never have a committed romantic relationship. No man would be able to tolerate the way her brain worked on a long term basis, but she wasn’t opposed to something less involved with the gorgeous bad boy in front of her.
“Lana!” Frank and Elle shouted in unison, both sounding equally scandalized.
Uh oh. “Which part did I say out loud?” she asked in resignation.
Elle gave her a look that hovered between pitying and hugely amused. “The part where you implied you wouldn’t mind having sex with my gorgeous bad boy of a brother.”