Under the Tycoon's Protection

By: Anna DePalo

Allison Whittaker stared at the man who might be trying to kill her.

She shifted the slats of her window blinds slightly to get a better view of the dark Boston street stretched out below her. The yellowish glow cast by an old-fashioned gas lamp fought a losing battle with the darkness of the cool April night.The man sat motionless in the driver’s seat of the black car across the street, his face in shadow.

He’d been there last night, too.

She’d noticed. She made a point of noticing. More than four years as an Assistant District Attorney in Boston did that to a person. She’d been a lot more naive when she’d been straight out of law school.

A nice genteel white-shoe law-firm job should have been the next rung on the ladder. Her upper-crust family had certainly expected it of her. Her mother, a respected family court judge who’d just had a glowing article written about her in The Boston Globe, certainly had.

Instead, she’d surprised them all. She’d gone for the tough prosecutor’s job. And not as a prestigious Assistant U.S. Attorney trying federal cases either.

Nope. She’d gone for the down-and-dirty: putting away the friendly neighborhood drug dealer or burglar as a prosecutor in the District Attorney’s Office.

She looked down again at the man in the car. Of course, she’d surprise everyone even more if she wound up dead in her apartment, her throat slashed by the mystery man sending her death threats. She didn’t want to make that her encore.

She held her breath as the man in the car shifted and opened the driver’s-side door.

As he got out of the car, she strained for a better view but couldn’t make out his facial features in the dark. What she could tell was that he was tall and solidly built, with sandy-brown hair and dark clothes.

She watched as he scanned the street up and down and then made his way toward the house. Was he heading for her?

Her heart began to pound, her breath catching in her throat. Call the police! the rational part of her mind screamed.

Surely the neighbors would hear if he tried to break in? Her exclusive Beacon Hill neighborhood was usually quiet and serene.

The man below passed under a street lamp and her mind pulled the emergency brake on her thoughts.

She knew that face.

Suddenly fear was replaced by anger. Not the simmering variety of anger, either, but a full-blown boil. The type that any of her three older brothers would have recognized as a sign to dive for cover.

She headed for the staircase of the redbrick townhouse that she called home, heedless of the fact that she was dressed for bed in a short silk slip and matching robe. When she got downstairs—the back of her mind taking note of the fact that she hadn’t yet heard a knock or bell—she undid the lock on the front door and yanked the door open without ceremony.

“Hello, princess.”

Allison felt the same rush of energy she always did in this man’s presence, quickly replaced by an undercurrent of pulsing tension.

He had a lithe but muscular physique, one which usually reduced women to giggles and flirtatious banter. But not her. They had too much of a history for that, and she doubted his presence on her doorstep tonight was a mere coincidence.

She crossed her arms and snapped, “Did you take a wrong turn, Connor? The last time I checked, Beacon Hill was too exclusive a neighborhood for riffraff like you.”

He had the audacity to look amused, his gaze raking her. “And you’re still the perfect diamond blue blood, princess. Just like I remembered.”

“If you know anything about diamonds, you’ll remember they’re the hardest stones around.”

“Oh, I know plenty about diamonds these days, petunia,” he said, tapping the tip of her nose with his finger as he sauntered inside without invitation, forcing her to take a step back. “I’ve discovered they’re the gift of choice for women in your class.”

She yanked her mind from the image of Connor picking out diamonds for his girlfriends. Probably at someplace like the exclusive Van Cleef & Arpels, damn the man. He might have grown up in tough, working-class South Boston, but, thanks to the multimillion-dollar security business he’d started, his bank account was well into eight figures these days. He was quite the self-made tycoon.