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Standing There (Love in the Park Book 1) by C.M. Steele (1)

Prologue

Roman

I look at the file in my hand. It’s of the criminal, Stewart Guest. His most recent crime is stalking with the attempt to harm a minor, but he has a laundry list of arrests that span almost his entire life. He’s forty and a fucking total basket case that in my opinion shouldn’t be let out, but he got out on a technicality.

A knock on my office door startles me, and I shut the file. “Come in.” Normally, I’m not this jumpy, but looking at this fucker’s record and the case itself has me on edge. I never wanted to take a client’s case more. This girl is in serious danger.

My assistant comes in with a smile on her face. She looks at me and can clearly read my agitation on my face. Doesn’t move far from the door, almost skittish. I’m rarely ever irritated. “Mr. Moore is here to see you. I can tell him you’re not available if you’d like.”

“Thank you, Laurie, but I’m fine. His case is very important. Please, send him in.” Moore’s the one who needs help from this guy. He sent me all the information this morning. I stand up and walk around my desk to greet the man, shaking his hand and pointing to the chair.

“Hello, Mr. Moore, please, come have a seat.” He’s tall, about three inches taller than my six foot one. His shoulders are broad, so much so I should offer him a job here because his ass could work on my team. He’s much larger than me. It’s not that I’m small by any means, but my muscle is lean and athletic.

“Thank you. I won’t be long. I need to get back to Lindsay.” He seems agitated. After seeing this guy’s record, I can’t blame him, but we are the best of the best. When I took over for my father, then made significant innovations, the company boomed. I have a huge staff of sixty, and my team travels all over to clients. Most are security for special events. Rarely they handle private details for some clients. It happens when people like Mr. Moore pay enough money.

“I’ve already sent someone to her school to look after her. They’ll follow her home. She has only a week left, correct?”

“Yes, she’s graduating in two weeks, but classes end this week. The damn bastard forced her to miss almost two years of school, so, unfortunately, she’s already nineteen. She doesn’t want to walk across the stage or anything, but they will do it for all the summer groups. It’s a combination of four schools in the district, so it’s about forty late graduates. I want your team to be in full force. I don’t trust this fucker. Money isn’t an object. I wish I could put a bullet in his head and end it all that way, but I’m not prepared to spend twenty in prison.”

“Yeah, it would be nice if he met his end without you playing a part. Like the fucker gets hit by a car or something.” I could make it happen, I thought.

“That’s a sound idea,” he says, rubbing his chin contemplating the possibility.

Shit, I may have set the wheels in motion. I can’t let that go down because it’ll come back to me. We did our business as clean as possible. Some of our men have killed in times of need and inquiries always go in our favor with the authorities because our job sometimes necessitates it. “Well, I was just wishful thinking. It’s against the law even though his record is worthy of it. How is your sister handling it knowing he’s out?”

He hangs his head in shame, and I don’t even need him to say what he’s going to say. “She doesn’t know. I don’t want to freak her out. She’s supposed to be going to college shortly after the graduation, but I’m afraid to let her leave.”

“Why haven’t you signed her up for online classes?” That would be the smart thing to do. College campuses make easy fucking targets with their expansive lands and classes spread out over large quads. The schools my sisters go to have miles of buildings.

He releases a heavyhearted sigh then explains, “Because she doesn’t want to do them. Hell, I don’t think she even wants to go to college, but she wants to be free from the fear. None of us can forget the trauma she went through.”

“I’m sorry. I read the case file.”

“She’s fortunate that my neighbor heard her. We moved from there because there was no way in hell I was bringing her back to the pain. First, the loss of our parents followed by the attack by someone who had been there for us when they died.” A nagging suspicion in me wonders if the stalker may have been the reason their parents died. I think it’s a coincidence, but you never know. I’ll have to take a look. Asking him when he’s already anxious seems a bit of a dick move. Instead, I return my focus to the mission on hand.

“I’ll have a facial recognition scanner. I’ll make sure that we secretly scan every attendee.”

“That’s a bit of a relief.”

I open up my file for notes and begin questioning him. “No problem. It’s what we do here. Every guy on my team has been in the service or has been in law enforcement. They know what they’re doing. He won’t get her. Does she have a job outside of the house?”

“No, we don’t need the money, so there’s no sense in putting her in serious danger for a few bucks.” I click on the picture he sent me this morning that I hadn’t looked at because my computer was down for some damn update that took too long. I did forward it to my team I assigned to her via secured email. Now that it’s up and running, I get my first glimpse at Lindsay Moore.

I can’t believe my eyes. Lindsay Moore is fucking breathtaking. There are two pictures of her, and I rotate between the two several times pretending to be making notes on my laptop. One at fourteen with her family smiling so innocently. She looks so happy like there’s not a care in the world. I suppose because at this point there wasn’t a care in the world. Her parents’ death came shortly after this picture was taken. My heart’s clenching in my chest, feeling as if I can feel her pain. Then I take in the more recent photo of her cropped just to show her by herself, and there’s that smile again; this time it’s coming from a woman. The innocence of the past has washed away, but the genuine good-hearted nature is evident in that ear-to-ear grin. My chest is pounding. She’s sexy yes, but it’s more than that. I want a fucking piece of that happiness she’s giving. I clear my throat and respond. “That’s smart. I just want to know what we’re up against. Any boyfriends, or friends that she tends to go out with?” Even asking the question churns up a gut-wrenching, tortuous feeling.

“She has one who’s a real pain in the ass. They are always together.” I hold back a growl that she has a boyfriend. I know that a woman this beautiful would have a man. I hate that I’m insanely jealous. It’s more than jealousy though. I’ve fully lost it. One look at her photo on my computer screen, and I’ve already staked my claim on her. I’ll deal with the guy and get him out of the picture today.

“Okay, well if they’re together it makes it a little safer than going alone,” I mutter in response. “Do you have a picture of the P.I.T.A?”

“Sure.” He pulls out his cell, and there’s a cropped photo with a cute girl. A wave of instant relief comes over me, and I release the breath I was holding to steady my emotions. I can see long blonde hair, so I’m assuming that the woman next to her had been Lindsay. I wonder if she’s really a pain in the ass or a young girl he shouldn’t be interested in? I know what to do.

“Wow, she’s stunning.” A low rumbling growl comes from deep within the big man, and I chuckle.

“Well, that answered my question. Now, good luck with that one.” I wink, handing him back his phone. “So, she doesn’t have a boyfriend that we need to be made aware of?” We don’t really need to know it, but I do.

He looks at the photo once more before putting the phone away and answering me distractedly, “No, she doesn’t, Mr. Wolf.”

“Call me, Roman. I’ll make sure my men are aware that there shouldn’t be any guys lingering around her, Mr. Moore.”

“Call me, Brent. My sister means the world to me, and I didn’t protect her before. I won’t let her down again.” I nod because I can’t even fathom the pain and guilt he has been dealing with since this happened. I think back to the smiling beauty in the photo and know that she’s mine. One way or another after this is over, I’m going to win her. “Now, I’m going to let you get back to business as I have to get back to mine.”

“Sure thing. I’ll see you at the graduation, but you won’t see me.” I give him a wink.  

He smiles and rises to his feet, and I follow along, walking him to the door and shaking his hand. “Good, the sooner this fucker is locked back up, the better I’ll feel.”

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