When I think of sass, I think Rosie Ramos in Personal Protection — confident and competent in her job as bodyguard for Hauberk Protection. Add a little Puerto Rican spice and we’ve got a woman with enough sass to attract her boss’s attention. And then some.

(If you want to know more about Sam Watson, he’s first introduced in Private Property — download it for free on your Kindle, Nook and Sony Reader before March 14th!)

Personal Protection
Copyright © 2009 Leah Braemel
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication

She’d stepped on the treadmill—of course the only one free had to be the one right beside his. Less than two minutes later, even though the meter on his treadmill showed he’d only run three miles instead of his usual five, he’d slung a towel around his neck and walked away.

No, Sam Watson didn’t just walk, he prowled like a lion. And not just any lion, Samuel J. Watson was Mustafa himself, the king of the pride, right down to the deep voice. It was a good thing he’d left when he did, because when she’d attempted to peel off the sweatshirt she was wearing over her tee, the treadmill rocketed her into the wall behind her like a sling shot flinging a pea. She’d tried to pretend she’d intended to step off, but from the grin Andy had given her, she was sure everyone in the office would now think her the clumsiest operative of the group.

At least Sam hadn’t witnessed her humiliation.

Or Kris, the newest trainee she’d been assigned. If he’d witnessed her total spazzdom, she’d never hear the end of it.

“Speak of the devil,” she muttered when Kris chose that moment to walk in. His gaze lingered on her cleavage briefly, then trailed down to her legs, his grin slowly widening. “Put your eyeballs back in their sockets, Campbell.”

He grinned, a wide crooked smile. “It’s the drool that’s the problem. I swear you need to hand out bibs when you’re working out, Rosie.” As usual he wore a pair of faded tan shorts, and the ubiquitous blue T-shirt with its gold Hauberk crest. “You going to need a sparring partner later?”

She glanced over at Andy as she chugged back a quarter of the water in her bottle. He was in the middle of a good sprint—he wouldn’t be ready for a while yet. Pity, she wanted to figure out that leg sweep he’d used on her last time they’d paired up. “Yes, I just want to get in a couple more reps.”

By the time Kris had finished his warm ups, her foot was braced against the wall over her head as she stretched her hamstrings.

“Goddamn, woman. It isn’t right that a body is so flexible.”

“It isn’t right that a woman should be expected to pass a basketball through an opening the size of her nostril either, but we can.” She lowered her leg and flexed a few more times. “You ready?”

Kris grinned. “I’m ready to kick your butt. You ready to kiss the mats?”

As they moved to the sparring area, Rosie saw several of her co-workers exchanging money. If they bet on Kris, she vowed they were going to regret it.

Although she was ten inches shorter and a good eighty pounds lighter than Kris, she managed to flip him onto his back fairly quickly.

“Aw hell,” he muttered as he rolled to his feet. “I wasn’t warmed up properly.”

She rubbed her thumb and forefinger together. “World’s smallest violin, you big baby.”

“That’s cold. And strangely arousing. Let’s see you do that move again.”

As Kris rolled to a stand, Andy winked at Rosie and called, “Hey, cougar bait, I hear you had another date with that old lady who bought you at the auction.”

Kris shrugged and turned away. “Hey, Bonnie may be forty, but she’s still hot. I figure it’s a win-win situation.”

“Just make sure when she asks to check out your gun, that you don’t rack a bullet in the chamber prematurely.”

Turning bright red, Kris grimaced and muttered to Rosie. “Wow, he’s so subtle.”

He rushed her as he had before but when she moved to intercept him again, he changed directions and she found herself flat on her back, staring at the ceiling.

“Shit!” That was the same move Andy had used on her. How had he done that? She’d have to ask him. After she paid him back, of course.

A grin split Kris’s face when he loomed over her. “Sorry, Rosie, but if you want to dish it out, you gotta be able to take it too. Isn’t that what you told me my first day?”

She took the hand he held out to help her up. Once on her feet but before he released her, she forced his thumb toward his wrist and wrenched his arm behind him in a classic takedown maneuver. In an effort to lessen the pain, he twisted as she’d intended and fell to his knees. She placed her knee in his back and forced him flat onto the mat where she’d been moments before.

“Cheater!” he gasped.

“Weren’t you just talking about taking what you dish out?”

“Ah, Kris with his face in the mats, and Rosalinda controlling him. All is right with the world I see,” a voice said from the doorway to the men’s locker room.

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