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Excerpt of Bulletproof Princess by Vicki Hinze

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Bombshell Series, #78
Silhouette
February 2006
Featuring: Chloe St. John
304 pages
ISBN: 0373513925
Paperback
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Romance Series

Also by Vicki Hinze:

Risky Brides, November 2014
e-Book
Dangerous Desires, July 2013
e-Book
Maybe This Time, February 2013
Paperback / e-Book
Torn Loyalties, February 2013
Paperback / e-Book
Legend of the Mist, February 2013
Paperback / e-Book
All Due Respect, January 2013
Trade Size / e-Book (reprint)
Christmas Countdown, December 2012
Paperback / e-Book
Duplicity, November 2012
Audio / e-Book (reprint)
Mind Reader, November 2012
Audio CD / e-Book
Acts of Honor, September 2012
Trade Size / e-Book (reprint)
Duplicity, August 2012
e-Book (reprint)
Not This Time, March 2012
Trade Size / e-Book
Mind Reader, March 2012
e-Book (reprint)
Girl Talk, March 2012
e-Book
Cast Of Characters, March 2012
Paperback / e-Book
Beside A Dreamswept Sea, January 2012
Trade Size / e-Book
Upon A Mystic Tide, December 2011
Trade Size / e-Book
Beyond the Misty Shore, October 2011
Paperback / e-Book
Before The White Rose, September 2011
e-Book
Deadly Ties, February 2011
Trade Size / e-Book
Forget Me Not, March 2010
Paperback / e-Book
Kill Zone, July 2009
Mass Market Paperback
The Common Sense Guide For Writers, July 2006
Paperback
Her Perfect Life, April 2006
Paperback
The Prophet's Lady, March 2006
Paperback
Bulletproof Princess, February 2006
Paperback
Double Dare, December 2005
Paperback
Double Vision, June 2005
Paperback
Smokescreen, June 2005
Paperback
Body Double, September 2004
Paperback
Lady Justice, August 2004
Paperback
Lady Liberty, November 2002
Paperback
All Due Respect, October 2000
Paperback
One Way To Write A Novel, September 2000
Paperback
All About Writing To Sell, July 2000
Paperback
Acts Of Honor, December 1999
Paperback
Duplicity, April 1999
Paperback / e-Book
Shades Of Gray, July 1998
Paperback

Excerpt of Bulletproof Princess by Vicki Hinze

Chloe awakened with an elbow in her ribs.

She turned over and found herself nose to nose with Jack Quaid, the man she'd been crazy about since the summer she'd turned sixteen but had only connected with days ago when the mob had pegged her for assassination.

Within hours of a drive-by shooting attempt, the press had dubbed her the Bulletproof Princess. Laughable, because all she had done was duck. Yet if she hadn't, it'd be her funeral as well as Marcus's that half of New York City attended today.

Jack's soft snoring stopped, but his eyes remained closed. She stroked his face, his black hair curling on his neck, the seemingly perpetual five o'clock shadow stubbling his strong jaw, and pressed gentle kisses to his wide brow. He didn't rouse, and she looked beyond him to the clock on the bedside table. Marcus's funeral wasn't until two, but she and Emma Bosworth had a meeting with Renee at the Gotham Rose Club at ten.

Chloe crawled out from beneath the luxurious covers and walked to the bath, freshened up, then stepped into a closet that was half the size of her enormous bedroom and wondered. "What does one wear to one's fiancé" s funeral?"

Normally, answering that wouldn't be difficult. But considering her fiancé had sacrificed her to the mob to save himself, had drugged and kidnapped her to force her into marriage to save her life because the mob had a rule against harming wives, and then had attempted to murder Jack by burying him in the concrete foundation being repaired in her building, Eleanor Towers, Chloe wasn't sure what to think or feel much less what to wear. All of which explained why she had a meeting with Renee Dalton- Sinclair, her boss and mentor. Renee would help her decide the best course of action for minimal damage and exposure.

Minimal exposure was essential to the Gotham Rose Club. Of over 200 members who had joined the G.R.C. in its four- year history, Renee had hand-selected nearly twenty to become agents in a top-secret spy organization. While the other Roses didn't know the agency existed, the agent Rose speculated that it had originated high in the halls of Congress or perhaps even in the White House. Renee selected each recruit for a specific reason — Chloe for her title, of course, because it gained her access to places and people mere money couldn't touch. A fact proven on her last two assignments by aristocratic arrests.

The Rose agents were tasked with information and evidence gathering to affect the arrests of high-society criminals who thought they were too rich, too powerful or too smart to be held accountable for their crimes. Once the Roses had done their part, overt authorities such as the police and FBI stepped in and made arrests.

Chloe showered and lathered with the scented signature soap she'd created on her last shopping trip in Paris. She inhaled its spicy scent. She'd chosen the distinctive chompas and patchouli scent to remind her that she wasn't the spoiled heiress her mother believed, but a strong and successful businesswoman inspired by Eleanor Roosevelt. Eleanor had had a fondness for patchouli.

Turning, she let the hot water beat the stress from between her shoulders. Okay, so she had trust issues with men who, until Jack, had never failed to disappoint her. They all wanted her money or her title. Even men like Marcus, who had fortunes of their own. But she stayed grounded and focused on what really mattered. That's the reason she'd bought Eleanor Towers and had been devoted to restoring it. It was physical evidence of her commitment to herself to live a life of substance.

Chloe closed her eyes and remembered the morning Madison Taylor-Pruitt, her sister Rose and a real-estate magnate had called.

"I found it, Chloe. The perfect building for you. It overlooks Central Park and has a wonderful history."

"Tell me about it."

A lilt settled in Madison's voice. "When Eleanor Roosevelt was working on the Human Rights agreement at the United Nations, she stopped in front of this building and told reporters that women weren't weak or ignorant, they didn't lack courage, and every woman should aspire to leave the world better than she found it."

"I remember reading that report!" Excitement flooded Chloe. This had to be the right building for her. "Everyone doubted Eleanor would get sixty-four nations to sign the agreement, but she did, and it changed the world."

"I still think it's a bit idealistic," Madison said, ever blunt. "But way too many in our circle turn cynical young and stay jaded for life, so I guess we need it."

"It's realistic, Madison. It happened."

Madison paused, then skepticism tinted her tone. "Do you really believe every woman changes the world?"

Normally Chloe would keep her opinions to herself, but Madison had asked with a flicker of hope, and Chloe wanted to nurture it. They'd developed a bond of trust, and while a lot had improved in Madison's life, she still grieved her best friend, Claire's, death. That and the subsequent investigation into Madison's family company had led to Renee recruiting Madison into the spy world of the Gotham Rose Club. "I believe every woman changes someone's world for better or worse. If they realize it, maybe they'll try harder to make sure the change is for the better."

"Mmm... So do you want to see the building?"

"I want to buy it."

"It needs to be gutted, Chloe. There've been a lot of haphazard modifications."

"So I'll gut it and then restore it."

"That'll be expensive." Madison reeled off a sum that most would find staggering.

Chloe smiled. "Lock it down. I want it."

She'd signed the papers within weeks, buying the building from Marcus, which was how they'd gotten close. She'd then renamed it Eleanor Towers. In the months since, the work had been brisk. The building had a long way to go to regain its glory, but it would get there. Chloe loved Eleanor Towers, and it showed.

Then Marcus had gotten the mob involved. Dead bodies, trying to seal Jack into its foundation... She leaned her forehead against the limestone wall, held the scented soap against her chin and inhaled again, then rinsed, wrapped herself in a towel and returned to her closet. If Marcus weren't already dead, Chloe would kill him for making Jack a target to get to her.

Jack appeared at the closet door. "You okay, Chloe?" Torn between tears and a hysterical laugh, she nodded. "I don't know whether to hate him, feel sorry for him, wish him alive so I could kill him myself, or what, Jack."

He walked over and put his arms around her. "I'd say any and all of it is valid, honey." He pressed a kiss to her neck. "Anything but you loving him."

"I don't love him." She looked up at Jack. "At one time, I thought I did, but I didn't and I don't."

"Are you going to the funeral?" Jack stood aside while she stretched for a black Vera Wang suit.

"I think I have to," she said, searching the rows of shoes for the right pair. "Going raises fewer questions than not going." Sighing, she looked over at Jack. "I'm dressing for it. Emma and I are meeting with Renee to discuss it."

He nodded. "I wish I could be there for you."

She sent him a look laced with gratitude. "I appreciate it, but that would just create another scandal. Erik will be with me," she said, referencing her brother. At least, last night on the phone he'd promised to be there. Heaven knew if he'd actually show up.

Jack grunted. "If he remembers to put in an appearance, you'll end up having to look out for him."

Erik wasn't responsible but, to their parents, he was the Chosen One while Chloe was a dismal failure at being "the perfect princess." Only two years separated them. Two years, and a world of maturity. "He's gotten a little nicer lately. I'm not sure why." Maybe because she'd been dodging bullets?

"He has to be trying to impress a woman. Nothing else motivates him."

Because that was true, Chloe sighed. "Probably."

Jack walked out and around the corner. She heard him turn on the spigot. Water splashed. "I'd feel better if Renee were going with you," he called.

"She is," Chloe said, sitting at her vanity to do her makeup.

"Emma, too. I'm picking her up on the way to meet Renee."

Minutes later Jack's cell rang and she heard him take the call. "Quaid," he said, then paused. "This is a really bad time for me to leave, Henry. Isn't there someone else who can cover —" He waited again, then added. "All right. No, if his wife is due to deliver any day, he can't very well go. I'll be there by ten."

Chloe's heart sank. Jack was leaving. He was a reporter for Architectural Restorations, which is how they'd reconnected. He'd given her some free press on the restoration of Eleanor Towers. But he also owned a chain of newspapers and did a lot of field reporting, including a fabulous series on Africa.

She finished dressing then slipped into a pair of basic black Jimmy Choos and debated wearing a hat with a gossamer veil to obscure her expressions from the press.

"Damn," Jack said, obviously having ended his call. He stepped out from around the corner wearing only a towel, his broad chest glistening.

Chloe's breath hitched. "You have to leave." Sadness stretched and yawned inside her.

He sent her an apologetic look. "I'm sorry, honey. I'm sure you heard —"

"The daddy needs to be home to greet the new baby."

"Exactly." Jack looked down at her, worry in his gray eyes.

"I have to go to London for two weeks. When I get back, we'll find out who killed Marcus. These men aren't playing games, Chloe. Promise me you won't investigate on your own."

They'd hired a pro to kill her once already, to force Marcus to bury evidence on a case. Expecting them to tie up loose ends with a second attempt wasn't a stretch. "I know. They could decide they still want me dead."

Jack rubbed her arms, shoulder to elbows. "So you'll leave it for when I return?"

"If I'm given a choice." At his six-six to her five-seven, she had to crank her neck to look up at him. "But if they come after me again, I'm going into full attack-mode, Jack. I'll have to if I want to stay alive."

"If that happens, you call me immediately and I'll come." So would the other Rose agents — not that she could mention them to Jack. Instead, she nodded, touched at his willingness to put himself in harm's way for her. In the past, she'd cared for three men and all three had betrayed her. But even at sixteen, when she'd first felt a sizzling special attraction to Jack, she'd known that what was between them was a significant, once-in-a-lifetime experience. Now that they were together, she intended to move forward without fear of her past mistakes and errors in judgment. She trusted him completely. And of all the things she found attractive, respected and admired in Jack, trusting him ranked most important. With her history, she didn't think even love could compete with it.

On tiptoe, she kissed him. "You look pretty good in a towel." She tugged its edges and it slid down his thighs to the floor. "But even better without it."

Chloe sat in the back of her limousine, staring at the royal flag furling in the wind on the front of the car. She'd prefer to travel incognito, but her mother would consider it scandalous for her to drive herself to Marcus's funeral, and today Chloe just didn't have the extra stamina to fight all her own demons and her mother, too.

The meeting with Renee would be challenging enough. "You okay back there, Princess?"

Chloe stared at the back of Frank's head. His gray hair was reminiscent of Albert Einstein's wired look. And though frail, Frank had an indulgent mischievous sparkle in his eye when he looked at Chloe. So long as he drew breath, Frank would put Chloe first. He had been her protector and her driver her entire life. "I'm fine."

"Uh-huh."

She grimaced. Fine? Had she honestly said she was fine? To Frank? She needed a serious internal-radar check. In her position, only a fool would be fine. "I'm sorry. I'm coping."

"That's better," he said, clearly glad to get the truth. "But don't you worry. Mrs. Dalton-Sinclair will help you set matters to right."

She would. Renee always had been wonderful to Chloe. Frank drove to Sutton Place, a section on New York City's East Side, where Emma Bosworth stood waiting.

Wrapped in a velvety black cashmere coat and standing next to her bruiser of a doorman, she looked like a tiny, fresh- faced angel, gentle and approachable. Unlike Chloe's brown, chin-length bob, Emma's hair was long, naturally streaked auburn and pulled up in a loose knot. She always looked elegant. Today, she wore pearls — and a black raw- silk Chanel suit. With her sea-green eyes, the effect was flattering and dramatic...and deceptive.

Most of the Gotham Roses supported the G.R.C. with fund- raising for their chosen charity. They had separate and varied careers, like Madison's in real estate and Chloe's in investing. Those things told Renee most of what she needed to know about which Roses had the character, connections, skills and the will to become successful in their top-secret endeavors. But Emma didn't have a career. With Emma, none of that was needed. She was born to spy, and both she and Renee knew it.

Excerpt from Bulletproof Princess by Vicki Hinze
All rights reserved by publisher and author

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