Love You Madly

By: Ashlee Mallory

He was the geek. She was the homecoming queen.

Now he’s the only one who can help her...

Meredith Sanders was the golden girl in high school—a homecoming queen with a trail of worshipping minions. Now she’s all grown up with a trail of failed marriages. The only good thing she has in her life is her brilliant and beautiful teenaged step-daughter...who’s missing. But the best man for the job has a serious hate-on for her.

Back in high school, queen bee Meredith made Travis Brennan’s life miserable. Since then, he’s gone from class geek to a hardened, former SEAL, specializing in private security. As much as he wants to help Meredith’s step-daughter, he can’t help but clash with the gorgeous woman who once made his life hell.

But as they investigate the increasingly mysterious disappearance, their conflicted past threatens to turn into a very provocative present...

To my dad, who has always been proud of my accomplishments, no matter how big or small

Chapter One

It was a blistering hundred and two in the shade as Meredith Sanders crossed the parking lot, her heels digging into the hot pavement. She could practically smell the ozone in the dry desert air. Stepping into the coffee shop, she welcomed the familiar nutty aroma and cool refrigerated air that assailed her. She slid her sunglasses up to perch on top of her head and glanced around the room for her appointment.

It was crowded for a late Thursday afternoon, and she counted four different guys sitting alone. Most of them were too preoccupied talking or texting on their cell phones to bother a glance toward the door. All but one. He could be the guy.

As if cued into her thoughts, he made eye contact and waved. He was very good-looking, which somewhat surprised her, since she’d expected some guy with a face slashed with scars, maybe a dozen tattoos, and a brooding, angry gaze. When she didn’t move, he rose and started toward her. Fairly tall and weight lifter buff, his dark hair was as perfectly formed as his wide, white smile. He gave her a once-over glance followed by a long appreciative smirk.

He would be putty in her hands.

She only hoped he’d have some smarts to go with that brawn, since without his help, she had no clue how to go about finding her daughter.

Her new Coach leather handbag hooked at her elbow, Meredith met him halfway.

“Wow. You are certainly different than I pictured you,” he said and offered her his hand.

At least he has manners.

Only, when she reached her hand out to his, she was yanked nearly out of her shoes as he pulled her into him and wrapped his barrel-sized arms around her in an overly familiar hug.

She stiffened. This was a little friendlier of a greeting than she expected from a professional…what? Hit man? Mercenary? Bodyguard? She hadn’t really asked the guy’s title when they’d arranged this meeting barely four hours before.

“Here. I already found us a table.” In another too-friendly move, he rested his hand on her lower back and guided her to the table. “Can I get you something to drink?”

“No. I’d rather just get things started, if you don’t mind.”

He gave her a salacious grin. “I can tell you right now, I really like what I see.”

“Excuse me?” He couldn’t be implying what she thought he was.

He laughed. “What’s the play here? Are you, like, playing bitchy Barbie? I mean, I knew you liked kinky. And I’ve been naughty.” He leaned forward, lowering his voice. “You wanna spank me?”

What the hell was wrong with his guy? She’d expected uncouth and boorish, but outright offensive and perverted were another thing.

“I don’t know what kind of woman you think I am, Travis, but this is strictly a business relationship. And frankly, your attitude concerns me. If I report this behavior to my father, he’ll never do business with your—”

“Whoa. Hey. Take it down a notch, babe. Who the hell is Travis? My name’s Jason. And your father? Holy shit. You’re too old to be one of those prissy daddy’s girls who—”

Old? She was still one full year away from her thirtieth birthday.

Before she could launch herself at him, a man approached their table, his voice low and gruff. “Excuse me.”