Home > The Protector (Norcross Security #9)

The Protector (Norcross Security #9)
Author: Anna Hackett



Chapter One



The music swelled, and Saskia Hawke moved across the small stage.

Her body flowed and she felt connected to the music. Her muscles knew exactly what to do—thanks to years of training and her passion.

Arabesque, jeté, brisé. Love and joy filled her, lifted her. Her tiny skirt flared around her thighs, and she lifted her arms gracefully above her head.

It didn’t matter that the stage and audience were small. This was a tiny, private performance, but for Saskia, dancing was dancing.

It didn’t matter if she was performing for one person, or a crowd at the Royal Opera House in London. Dancing was her heart and soul.

She’d danced for royalty and presidents. She’d been the lead in the most famous ballets—Romeo and Juliet, The Nutcracker, Swan Lake. She’d shared the stage with some of the world’s best dancers.

She always put everything she had into the dance, because it was a compulsion inside her. She leaped into a grand jeté.

For that second, she was soaring.

She leaped again, and whirled into another turn.

The music ended, and Saskia bent over, her arms out.

There was a moment of pure silence.

Then applause erupted.

She straightened and smiled. They were in a clear marquee set up in Central Park. The trees outside were a stunning palette of fall colors—orange, reds, and browns. Some were losing their leaves as winter made its approach.

Her heart was beating hard, and she pulled in some breaths and kept her practiced smile in place.

Now that the dance was over, she felt the throb in her sore knee and the ache in her feet, and tiredness wrapped around her like a blanket. It was Monday lunch time—and one of her days off—and she would have preferred to be lazing in bed, reading a book, and drinking hot chocolate. She had a new stash of chocolate from Paris she wanted to test out, not to mention an unopened packet of her favorite truffles. Chocolate was her weakness.

The partygoers rose to their feet, still clapping. Saskia kept her smile in place, but inside she felt…not so much. It had been happening a lot lately. While she loved to dance, performing and her grueling practices didn’t give her the same sense of satisfaction anymore.

Yes, she really, really wanted to be home at her apartment with that mug of hot chocolate. Her heart clenched. And maybe a secret phone call later with the man she couldn’t stop thinking about.

Other dancers pranced up behind her, bowing.

Her dancer friend, Danielle, caught her gaze and smiled. A pretty blonde dancer beside Danie beamed. She looked extremely pleased, her cheeks glowing.

Saskia managed a real smile. Danie had begged her to come today. Not all dancers made good money like Saskia did. These private performances for wealthy clients paid well. Saskia hadn’t wanted to do it, but Danie had said that the patron had requested Saskia personally.

She took another bow. The organizer, Chad—a well-dressed man with a clipped New York accent, blond hair, sharp suit, and an over-wide smile—carried out a bunch of flowers.

He handed out a single rose for each of the other female dancers, then turned and handed the rest of the bunch to Saskia.

“Mr. Mikhailov was so very happy you danced for him today.” Chad didn’t bother to hide the fact that he was checking out her breasts.

She barely hid her eye roll. She was built like most prima ballerinas—slender, long legs and neck, and not that well-endowed.

“Thank you.” She took the flowers.

“He’d love for to you to join him for a drink.”

“I’m flattered, but I can’t today. Thank you again.”

Back in the tiny change room assigned to the female dancers, Saskia changed back into her jeans and sweater, and topped it with a gray coat and cream scarf. She released her black hair from the confines of the tight bun and brushed it out, then bundled it up loosely so it wouldn’t give her a headache.

Then she set to work cleaning off the heavy makeup. She tipped the makeup remover onto a cloth and leaned toward the mirror.

She couldn’t wait to get home and soak her feet. Her brother had given her an amazing home foot spa for her birthday last year. She smiled. It had been a thoughtful gift, especially since her big brother was the definition of the ultimate badass. She didn’t see a lot of him, since Killian traveled a lot. He owned a private security company specializing in cyber security and a bunch of other no doubt dangerous things he didn’t talk about.

Dangerous. That pretty much described Killian to a T. Before he’d started Sentinel Security, he’d…well, she didn’t actually know what he’d done. Something black ops for the government. He didn’t advertise the fact that they were related. If people looked her up, there was no mention of him.

Anyway, she was just glad that his work now wasn’t as dangerous as it had been before.

She didn’t remember the father who’d abandoned them, and their mother had died when Saskia was eighteen. She didn’t want to lose what she had left of her family.

Thoughts of her deadly brother brought to mind another man.

In the mirror, her lips tilted up.

Camden Morgan.

She’d met him a few months back in San Francisco, at her best friend Savannah’s art show.

After terrible trouble involving a crazed stalker, Savannah had fallen in love with sexy police detective Hunter Morgan. Cam was his brother.

He’d recently gotten out of the military. He had newly healed scars on his face, and carried a hard, watchful look. That, combined with his powerful, muscled body, and his obvious love of his family and friends, had entranced her.

Her life in New York was mostly filled with self-absorbed dancers, and men too busy with their careers to put much effort into anything else. Her short-lived stint on a dating app had introduced her to a long line of uninspiring men and bad dates. Cam couldn’t be more different.

Even now, she remembered the way every cell in her body had taken notice the moment she’d first laid eyes on him.

“Thanks again for today, Saskia.” Danie walked past and squeezed Saskia’s arm. “You were awesome, as always.”

“Sure thing, Danie. See you tomorrow at rehearsal.”

“You know it.” She breathed out. “Enjoy the rest of your day.”

Face clean, Saskia dabbed on some lip gloss. She planned to enjoy her day. She had a meeting with the dance director at her dance company later, but other than that she was free. She might call on her old dance mentor. Cassie was a former principal dancer who’d since retired and ran a dance school. Saskia loved popping in and seeing the kids. She sometimes felt the niggle that she’d like to teach. One day.

For now, dancing on stage was her life. Dancing was a touchstone for her, had saved her in the toughest time of her life.

She tucked her lip gloss away. The other thing she hoped for today was that she got a late-night call from Cam.

At Savannah’s art show, he’d mostly avoided her, but she’d caught him watching her numerous times.

Hot, intense stares that had made her belly coil.

She’d finally taken matters into her own hands and gotten him onto the dance floor. Being in those strong arms…

She shivered.

Still, he hadn’t made a move. She hadn’t pushed him. She’d left him her phone number, sadly knowing in her heart that he was unlikely to use it.

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