Share →
Pushing Penny by Cheryl Dragon

Pushing Penny
Raider’s Bodyguard Service, Book 2
by Cheryl Dragon

Resplendence Publishing

eBook ISBN: 978-1-60735-213-6

Grayson knew Penny was the challenge he’d been looking for. Being tied up naked by a man she’s paying to protect her is hot enough, but when he starts using mirrors and fashion to drive her crazy, he might just push Penny right out of her comfort zone.

Buy Now:
Resplendence PublishingAreKindle

Chapter One

Shame the devil, tell the truth. That was a phrase Penny Beaumont had been raised on. The words echoed in her mind as she reviewed her packing for her first international trip. The truth was she’d always been overweight. Everyone had a truth, and that was hers. Her brother Brian was gay. Her baby sister was skinny, blonde and a perfect southern lady. Their daddy was a Texas millionaire and their grandfather was a fire and brimstone preacher from Baton Rouge.
All the Beaumont women were good, old-fashioned, southern ladies who did charity work, raised children and kept a perfect home. They didn’t drink, didn’t smoke and didn’t drive, but her mother was the rebel—she drove her own car. International travel was a new world for Penny.
Today, Penny had a flight to Milan to show her plus-size fashions to the European market. Her American debut had been a success, but this was more pressure. She sat on the bed and looked at her brother. “I should cancel. It’s a mistake.”
Brian hugged her. “It’ll be fine. You’ll be a hit. They invited you.”
“It’s probably all a joke. Europeans think all Americans are fat, and it’ll be a big tabloid story.”
“Stop it. This isn’t high school. You need to clear away the bad thoughts. You’ve worked so hard, and it’s amazing stuff. It’s Milan, Mecca of fashion. And you can’t tell me that there aren’t any plus-size Italian women.”
She rolled her eyes. “I’ve never traveled outside the US. Dad freaked when I bought a foreign car.”
“He’s so old school they hadn’t invented chalk. He sheltered the girls and I had to fight my own battles. That’s not doing anyone any favors. Between the extreme religion on mom’s side, dad’s money and my being the most popular gay grad student in New York, you have every right to be confused. Just do your thing and be yourself. You’re not backing down after all that work. I’m just glad Andrea talked you into a bodyguard.”
“It’s so unnecessary and over the top. No one is stalking me. But she’s right. After what happened to her cousin, I’m not taking any chances.” Brian and Andrea, Penny’s best friend since college, both thought it was a good idea, and Penny trusted their judgment. “At least, I’ve met the guy. I do feel safe with him.”
“A hard-bodied bodyguard?” Brian teased. “Hot?”
“Sorry, he’s straight. Met him at Andrea and Jake’s Vegas elopement.” She knew her brother was always on the lookout for a new guy. Brian would be drooling soon. Grayson was unbearably hot, strong, and quiet. When they’d met as best man and maid of honor, his touch had sparked everything in her. That man had a way of looking right through her. It had been an intense experience for her. She wondered if he’d even remember her. Hot men tended to forget the big girls. But this was a professional arrangement, not a date.
Brian flopped on the bed. “For shame, Penelope. Vegas! Did you drink?” He imitated their easily offended grandfather.
“Yes,” she confessed.
He propped his hands on his hips. “Did you gamble?”
“Yes.” She smiled.
Brian got nose-to-nose with her. “Did you dance with the sexy hunk?”
“No.” Penny told the truth. Her brother knew what it meant to be different. He was the only one in the family who didn’t make her feel as if she didn’t fit. During his brief stint as a drag queen, she’d made his gowns. It had helped set her on her current career path. Before that Penny had only designed for herself. All the queens had admired her work, even though Brian wasn’t very good on stage. He found being the hot, young, southern guy got him more men while others performed.
“No dancing? It was a wedding.” He nudged her.
“They eloped. It was a five minute wedding and dinner at a steakhouse that rotated. The view was lovely.”
The doorbell to her condo rang.
“Got it.” Brian jumped up.
She knew he wanted a good look at the bodyguard. He opened the door and sighed. “That view is more than lovely.”
Penny marched up to rescue Grayson. “Sorry, my brother is a bit comical at times. I was telling him about the view of Vegas from the restaurant.” She opened the door wider.
“Beautiful.” Grayson’s eyes stayed fixed on her.
Brian brushed her elbow with his, but Penny ignored him. Grayson, technically Jake’s stepbrother, was thirty-one and tall with jet black hair and pale blue eyes. All muscled body and calm demeanor. Grayson had turned Penny on from the start. She really didn’t need Brian adding to it. A tiny part of her didn’t want Grayson along to Milan. She didn’t need the distraction or the rejection.
Still, she’d agreed to a bodyguard. She’d lived in Texas until college then made a bold move to the east coast and met Andrea. Penny wasn’t well traveled by any interpretation.
Her manners finally kicked in. “Grayson, this is my brother Brian. Brian, my jailer for the week, poor man, Grayson. Come in, please.”
“He can frisk me any time.” Brian could flirt with a lamppost when the mood struck him. It annoyed Penny how well he’d played it straight for so long. But Brian loved Texas from horses to roping. He just wasn’t meant for the small towns where being a gay man could be dangerous.
Penny wished she could be as confident as Brian. But flirting was way out of her skill set.
“Be nice, Brian.” She turned to check her home. This distance from Grayson let her think and breathe. She handed Brian the keys. “No wild parties.”
“Me? No way.” He gave her a peck on the cheek and turned to Grayson. “Anything happens to her…”
“Brian, it’s his job. He knows what he’s doing.” Penny hated being the center of attention. It was always uncomfortable. “No need to make a fuss.”
Grayson held out a hand. “It’s fine. Nothing to worry about.”
Brian shook his hand and gave Penny a wink.
The driver saved her by stepping into the doorway. “Ready, Ms. Beaumont?”
“Yes. All this luggage please and his.” She pointed toward her large pile of bags then turned to her bodyguard. “Passport, identification, ticket and everything?”
“All set.” They headed out. “You’re very organized.”
“Yes. Especially with new endeavors.” She shrugged as they boarded the elevator. Alone with him she felt self-conscious. His calm confidence was something she envied. Like a dog that seemed nice but was guarding something he’d kill for. It also made her very aware of him. “I’m sorry to drag you to Italy. Having a bodyguard makes everyone more at ease, but I really don’t think there is anything to worry about.”
“Those jobs are the best. But normally, they don’t ask me to pose as a model. I’m not qualified.”
Not qualified? He was sexy and tall. The idea of him without a shirt or modeling briefs made her wet. But he only had to wear a tux. “Don’t worry. The rest of the models are women. It’s just the finale. It’s a gown and it doesn’t look right without an escort. Brian volunteered, but he has finals. Plus I don’t want people to think I’m paranoid so it’s a good excuse.”
“I’ll be discreet. Security is important. Ask Andrea’s cousin.” He waited until she was settled in the limo before he joined her. No fuss, no hurry. She liked him.
“I know. Poor Denise. That’s part of why Brian was so insistent. I don’t have a current boyfriend or any ex-boyfriends who are stalkers. No one in Italy knows my family. They certainly don’t care that my father has a little Texas money.”
“More than a little from what I found.”
She looked at him. “You did your homework.”
“Part of the job.”
Job. Right, she was a job. “You’ve been highly recommended. I’m sorry to drag you way from your family and girlfriend.” He was being nice because he was a professional. She couldn’t let her imagination run wild. At the wedding, he’d been very enthusiastic about Jake and Andrea and, all the time, very considerate and kind to Penny. He probably was a genuinely nice guy, but he could have any woman. Half her size or less. Trish, her little sister, for instance. Penny was so grateful not to have her sister around right now. No one would notice Penny with Trish in the room. Certainly no man ever did. But in Milan, there would be much steeper competition.
Grayson could have anyone. Penny would have to lock him up to have him to herself. Or pay him. Both of which weren’t things she’d consider. If a man didn’t want her, she didn’t need him. That was Brian’s motto. Penny generally was single and had grown used to it. She needed to put Grayson out of her mind.
He’d said something and she’d missed it with all her mental lecturing.
“I’m sorry?” she replied.
“I said you’re not taking me away from anyone. I don’t have a girlfriend. Still looking for the right challenge.”
The word gave her a chill. Challenge? It had to be a joke. “Challenge? You sound like my Uncle Lubby trying to decide which horse to break.”
“Not break. Set free. But you can’t ride and love a truly wild horse. If it doesn’t trust you, it can’t feel safe that you’ll feed and take care of it.”
“Oh please. Have you ever ridden a horse in your life?” He filled out his jeans, a T-shirt, and sport coat well, but he wasn’t a southern type. “You’ve got New York City written all over you. Men want skinny and pretty, not a challenge. Believe me, I’ve been a challenging woman all my life and men don’t like it. Ask any of the men in my family.”
He shifted to look at her. “They clearly aren’t the right type of men. Not for you.”
What type of man did he think was right for her? Penny knew this plane ride would be torture. The smell of him, the way he made her feel, and that intensity he projected made her long for her bedroom and toys. He’d be in her fantasies for months.
* * * *
Penny had slept through the flight, giving Grayson plenty of time to plan. The woman was self deprecating and kept to herself. Someone had taught her to minimize herself growing up. Not extremely uncommon for a woman, she was raised to be a people pleaser, and he could see she fought that. Still, she had so many walls up around her that he’d never get through in a subtle or suggestive way. Not that he wanted to. Since he’d met her in Vegas, he’d known she was the challenge he’d been waiting for. Leave it to Jake to deliver Ms. Right.
After they’d checked into their hotel, he dropped his stuff quickly in his room and headed to her suite. Finding her busy unpacking her gowns for the show, he took a second to enjoy the view of her with her back to him.
The suite made his apartment look like a jail cell. How could a woman with these resources, talent and success be so introverted?
“Something wrong?” she asked.
“No, just a security sweep.”
Her curly, reddish-brown hair was pulled up in a clip, and those green eyes were all into the gowns. Denial of pleasure was fun to play with, and he’d put her through some paces later on. She threw herself into her work to avoid unpleasant topics.
Grayson had pumped his new sister-in-law for information. Andrea advised him to be careful. Penny was a sweet southern girl, but when she drew a line or felt cornered, she pushed back hard.
Grayson wanted to see her fire. He wanted those lush curves, that pale skin and to have her beg for naughty things in that sweet accent of hers.
“I called down and made reservations for dinner. Once we’re done here, we can eat then try to get on local time,” she said as she fussed over a dress.
The caramel-colored gown would go perfectly with her tawny hair and sparkling eyes. “That’s nice.”
“It’s for me to wear at the show and the after party. It’s close to my finale gown, but a better color for me. And not slit as high.”
“Why not?” he asked suggestively.
She shrugged. “The model for that is only an eighteen. I’m not a model; I’m the designer.”
“So you can’t be sexy?”
Penny looked at him and frowned. “It’s my dress. It’s what I’m comfortable with. Besides, I don’t need to be sexy. I need to be taken seriously. Are you ready? I could use a meal without turbulence involved.”
“Five minutes.” Apparently, he’d hit her wall of defense. He checked the bedrooms in the suite and the bathroom. Nothing looked out of place. He returned to the main lounge. “All good. Should I change?”
“Why? It’s the hotel restaurant. We’re not going out into the nightlife. I’m going in this.” They exited the room and she led the way to the elevators.
“Maybe we should just order room service?” Grayson felt odd. The hotel—at least, the main areas and Penny’s suite—were much fancier than anything he’d ever seen. He had a tux for the show and dress pants, but mostly, he wore jeans and Raider’s shirts with the black and white logo.
“The menu was in Italian. This’ll be easier.” She got off the elevator and headed for the restaurant. “I don’t care what you wear. Men’s fashion isn’t my territory.”
Once they reached the restaurant, they were immediately led toward the back.
“Penny?” a voice shouted.
She turned and so did Grayson. A group of drag queens at the bar waved as if at the Mardi Gras parade. They hustled over with one less than enthused queen bringing up the rear.
She hugged all of them and introduced them. Grayson caught most of the names and smiled, feigning interest. The leader was Ariana. The pouty one was Gwen.
“These are some of the first people I designed for after Brian,” she told Grayson.
“He really quit the drag queen stage?” Ariana asked. “He was good.”
“Yeah. I think it was an exploratory time for him. And it pissed off Dad.”
The ladies laughed.
“And who exactly is this?” Gwen wrapped an arm around his biceps.
“Grayson Raider. A model in the show,” Penny answered quickly. “Don’t scare him, Gwen.”
“Being the designer has its perks. We’ll see you at the show. You can get us in?” Ariana asked.
“Sure. Come by the ballroom tomorrow while we’re setting up. You’ll be in.” Penny kissed them all on the cheek, and they were off into the night.
“Sorry. They’re fun.” She followed the waiter. “Small world. I knew they were on a drag queen tour of some sort.”
“No problem. Always good to see friendly faces.” Grayson had learned something from the encounter. Penny let her walls down easily with people she trusted. Her brother, Andrea and the queens. But when he got close, she froze up. It was the chemistry. Their sexual tension that triggered the extra armor.
Not that he doubted her putting up shields, but it was deeper than that. When he got too close, he felt it. She retreated automatically.
They listened to the specials and were left to look at the menus. “Sorry about the model thing. Of course, they pawed you. I just don’t want them worried because I brought a bodyguard,” she whispered.
“I am in the finale, but you could’ve just told them I was your boyfriend,” he replied. He held her gaze in his, locked for a few seconds.
In that time, he felt connected to her then she looked down and laughed softly. “Please, no one would believe that you’re my boyfriend. I’d get pulled aside with a lecture about how you’re only after my money.”
“You care what other people think?” he asked.
“They’re my friends. They’d be looking out for me, not judging me. My brother is the worst in the overprotection category along with Andrea. People think because I’m polite and grew up in a small Texas town with southern values that I can’t take care of myself. And obviously, I’m not a bombshell so I can’t get men to do whatever I want with a smile and flirt. It’s rather annoying.”
“So ignore them.”
“I try at times. Their intentions are good, and frequently, it’s easier to play along to avoid a mess. Like bringing you. My parents and brother will worry less and call only five times a day, not ten. I can focus on my work better.” She shrugged and studied her menu.
“It’s always good to have security on international travel when you have valuables and a person of interest exposed.”
“I’m not of interest to many, and my gowns aren’t overly valuable yet. But I do have a decent jewelry collection. My father has the money; I’m just leverage. Too much to handle if any bad guys tried.” She grinned. “If someone is going to be attacked like Andrea’s poor cousin, I’d be the last on that list. Brian is always at gay bars. My sister is too sweet and trusting. I worry about them for those scenarios. Mostly, I stay home and design things.”
“You’re not trusting and sweet?” He had her talking. It was a start.
“I learned young to be sweet and polite because it was expected, and I learned to watch my back. When kids invite you to their sleepovers because their parents make them, it doesn’t make for a good time. They teased me for being chubby. It happened behind my back but loud enough to hear it if I paid attention. When things don’t add up, I get suspicious.” She sipped her water.
“That’s terrible. Too bad Brian wasn’t older. I bet he’d have gotten involved.”
“That’s life. Kids always go after the different ones. Brian deals with it. I’ve dealt with it. That’s why I started making clothes. Nothing fit right or was in style when it did. I created for myself, but now it’s a business.”
Grayson walked a careful line all through dinner, testing her reactions and laying the groundwork.
Afterward, he followed her up to her suite and checked the rooms. Overkill, but he had no intention of leaving. Penny was everything he’d hoped and sensed in Vegas. Smart, sexy and strong. A challenge for him. She needed to be challenged herself.
“Everything okay?” She took the clip out of her hair and stepped out of her shoes.
Those little motions told Grayson she was comfortable with him. “I should stay here tonight.” He stepped into her personal space.
“That’s a bit extreme, don’t you think?” She stepped back, and her legs hit the edge of the bed.
He noticed how she gave people plenty of space, as though she took up too much. “Not at all. Being two floors away is no good if you need help.”
“That wasn’t the arrangement,” she replied.
Grayson pulled her to him and kissed her.
The intense warmth of her and feel of her kissing him back for a split second aroused him, but soon, she pushed him away. Penny was a cat trapped in a cage, letting others define her except for a few key areas where she swiped out for control. He’d help her unlock things and reap the rewards.
“What’s wrong with you?” She sidestepped away from him. “A bodyguard pretending to be model, that’s the plan. You don’t have to pretend to be my boyfriend. I didn’t hire you for that. Andrea said Raider’s was reputable and safe. She and Jake were a special case.”
“Forget who hired who. You felt it in Vegas. The connection. Keep lying to yourself; I won’t.” He’d tried a traditional approach and failed. Clearly, she was untrained and didn’t even know her real needs. It wasn’t her fault the right men hadn’t awakened her. He’d fix things. Grayson stood in her path and blocked her every attempt to escape, only closing in on her more.
“I’m not sure what you’re up to, but I’m not a charity case or a desperate virgin. You could go out and get any woman in Milan, so go. I don’t need this now. I hired a bodyguard, not an escort.”
Grayson grabbed her calf and tipped her back on the bed. He straddled her hips, pinning her. “Not another word.”
“What the hell?” She tried to sit up.
His hand covered her glossy lips. “Not one more word. No putting yourself down or making excuses for those who insult you. I don’t want to hear it, and I won’t tolerate it.” He kept his voice calm and strong. In a quick switch, he replaced his hand with his mouth and pinned her wrists over her head. She couldn’t push him away or deny him now. To his relief, she didn’t try.

Buy Now:
Resplendence PublishingAreKindle

Tagged with →  
%d bloggers like this: