Tangled Vows

By: Stella Hunter

Bailey’s head was already shaking before he finished. “No. Absolutely not.”

“But it’s perfect,” Everett explained. “The incident at the premiere is the perfect excuse to explain how we met. We won’t have to make anything up.”

“Bay, please.” Flanagan sighed. “This is a unique opportunity for you and for the company.”

“You mean he’s paying you a lot of money.” She stood abruptly. “We had an agreement. Is money and a big client so important to you that you’d break your promises to me?” She felt the hitch in her voice on those last words and hoped the men hadn’t noticed. She’d made her way in a man’s world by being strong and not acting like a crybaby every time something went wrong. She’d be damned if she would break down now. “You’ll have to find someone else,” she demanded, “because I will quit first.”

“Wait, what agreement?” Everett asked, looking back and forth between them.

“The condition of my continued employment was that he would never use me or my status to promote the company,” Bailey explained.

Everett scratched at the stubble on his jaw. “I don’t understand.”

Bailey rolled her eyes, certain he was playing her just to get what he wanted. She turned to face him and crossed her arms over her chest. “You mean to tell me you don’t know who I am?” Her sarcasm would have made anyone else back down. But not this man.

Without hesitation, he said, “No. Does it matter?”

Bailey dropped her arms. “Yes, it matters.”

“Why don’t you explain it to me, and we can work within your previous agreement?” Everett gestured to the chair she had vacated.

Reluctantly, Bailey lowered herself back into the seat. Flanagan had been nothing but courteous and respectful to her in the last year. She didn’t want to lose her job if something could be resolved. He was a nice guy, and she was sure he could use the extra money and publicity a client like Parker would bring. He had a kid who would be heading to college in a couple of years.

“You don’t follow politics much, do you?” she asked Parker.

He shrugged. “Not the details. Half the time I can’t even find time to vote.”

Mentally, Bailey rolled her eyes. It figured he would be one of those people. “A year and a half ago my sister was running for congressional office. I had just returned from Afghanistan. Unfortunately, she decided to parade me around as a war hero because of my injury. Our names and faces were all over the news for weeks. I’m surprised you don’t recognize me.” The feelings of anger and betrayal surged through her still at what her sister had done. Her family, her best friend, her goddamn identical twin. She knew she would eventually forgive Lexie, but she wasn’t ready to do it quite yet.

“Well, I don’t. What does this have to do with working for me?”

To Bay’s relief, Flanagan picked up where she left off. “Her contract stipulates no publicity. Even being your personal bodyguard is pushing that limit.”

Everett leaned back in his chair, a thoughtful look on his face. “Like I said, this trip has to be kept quiet. There shouldn’t be publicity at all. I wouldn’t even use a bodyguard if people didn’t get so worked up over a damn movie. But I can’t take chances that my family might get hurt. This trip is too important for anything to happen.” He ran his hands through his long hair and scrubbed at the back of his head. “Look, the only people we have to convince of our so-called relationship would be my parents, and that would only be so you could stay in the house. No one else would have to know, and there will be no publicity.”

Options swirled through Bailey’s head. Would it really be that easy? A simple trip with a regular guy? Could she trust him? She shook her head to clear it. There were too many variables. As a soldier, she knew that better than anyone did. Even if Parker were telling the truth as he saw it, there were no guarantees in life. Lee and his death had taught her that.

“Is that a no?” Everett asked.

“I don’t think it’s possible to do what you’re suggesting.”

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