Chapter One

Nathan Anderson shook his head in disgust and glared at the steering wheel of his Ford Focus. His

brothers, Logan and Blake, told him over and over that one day the car was going to give up the

ghost, but he’d ignored them. Marilyn, named after the iconic movie star, was old, but she was the

first thing he’d purchased when he’d left home after graduating high school, and he just couldn’t

bear to part with her. The black paint had long ago begun to peel off, she was rusting in places,

and the trunk only stayed shut because of the rope used to tie it down.

After several mornings of Marilyn barely turning over when Nathan tried to start her, it looked

like she’d finally had enough. Figured she’d do it when he was sitting with a trunk full of groceries

in a supermarket parking lot.

Nathan took out his phone and tapped on Logan’s number. It went to voice mail. Not bothering

to leave a message, Nathan tried Blake and turned off the phone in frustration when it too went to

his brother’s voice mail. He considered trying to get ahold of either Grace or Alexis but figured

they were probably with his brothers since they were rarely away from each other.

His friends Felicity and Cole weren’t around either. Felicity wasn’t due back until later tonight

from some sort of mysterious trip to Chicago that she refused to talk about, and Cole was up in

Denver getting marketing ideas for the gym he and Felicity co-owned.

Nathan sighed and drummed the steering wheel with his index finger, trying to figure out who

else he could call.

He wasn’t a man who made friends easily, more comfortable with his computer and numbers

than with people. Over the years he’d found that he pretty much didn’t like most people. They lied,

were rude, and didn’t give a crap about anyone but themselves. And that went for almost every

situation . . . in line at the store, on the road, and in business. They almost always put their own

wants and needs first. Alexis tried to tell him that he just hadn’t hung around the right people, and

he supposed that was true, but it didn’t make his feelings any less accurate.

Alexis and Grace were exceptions. Nathan vaguely remembered Grace from growing up.

While they went to the same high school, it wasn’t until he and his brothers had come home to

Castle Rock to start their security business that he’d gotten to know her better. They saved her

from her horrible parents who emotionally abused her for years, and she and Logan were now

married and expecting twin boys, literally any day now.

Alexis’s family had also been victimized by Grace’s parents, and at first Nathan had been

annoyed that Blake had invited Alexis to work with them at Ace Security. But over time, he’d

found out that she wasn’t like most women he’d known. She was quiet and easygoing, and not

afraid to say what she was thinking. They could sit together for hours in the office, and she

wouldn’t say a word. He liked that about her.

Where his brothers were didn’t really matter at the moment. What mattered was getting

Marilyn started and getting his groceries put away.

Nathan pulled his lanky six-foot-two frame out of his small car after popping the hood. He

propped it up, then leaned over the engine. He stared down at the hunk of metal as if he knew what

he was doing, hoping he’d somehow magically see what was wrong. He knew nothing about cars,

only that when he turned the key, the engine started . . . usually.

He was staring down into the hunk of steel that was Marilyn’s engine when a slight cough

sounded behind him, causing him to whirl around and curse himself for being caught unawares.

He knew better than to leave himself vulnerable, especially since the Inca Boyz had tried to kill

Alexis and vowed vengeance against her and his family.

The Inca Boyz were a gang from Denver who had gotten into the business of hiring themselves

out as thugs online. The Anderson brothers had nearly put them out of business after working with

the police to take them down. The leader of the gang, Donovan, had recently gotten out of jail, and

all three of the brothers were on high alert, not knowing what the man would do, or if he’d try to

get revenge on them for taking down his gang.

Nathan looked in shock at the woman standing in front of him. The first thing he noticed was

her height. She had to be almost a foot shorter than he was, and the top of her head came to his

shoulder. She had colorful sleeves of tattoos on both arms, her lips were pulled up into a smirk,

and her eyes danced with humor. Her black hair blew around her in the evening breeze, the strands

looking alive as they swirled around her head. She had high cheekbones, a small nose, and full lips

that Nathan suddenly wanted to see wrapped around his dick.

He was shocked at the image that burst into his brain as if it were a memory instead of a fantasy.

This woman on her knees in front of him, her tattoos bright against her pale skin, her lips wrapped

around him as she took him deep into her mouth, her nipples peeking out between the curls of her

black hair as she leaned into him.

The vision was surprising. He’d lost his virginity in high school at prom, and the experience

hadn’t been great. His date had obviously faked her orgasm and looked unimpressed as he’d tried

to make it good for her.

He’d slept with a grand total of two more women in the last ten years. He’d learned a bit about

what women liked and how to please them from those experiences, but he’d found that it was

easier to jack off than to try to woo and date women simply to get his rocks off. Nathan’s three

sexual encounters had left him feeling as if he were missing something.

And now he finally knew what that something was. Passion.

He felt it simply by looking at the petite woman in front of him.

Her arms were crossed now, and her eyes had narrowed in irritation as she waited for him to

say something.

“My car won’t start.” As far as enticing opening lines, it sucked, but Nathan had never been

good at flirting.

“What did it sound like when you turned the key?”

Her voice was husky, and Nathan imagined it would only get huskier after she’d had an orgasm

. . . or two.

He cleared his throat and tried to think about things like fixed and current assets and the profitand-

loss statement for Ace Security he was working on for the current quarter. But it was no use;

his dick had gotten hard at the sound of her voice, and it didn’t want to be denied. Nathan turned

so he was facing the engine again, trying to spare the woman his inappropriate hard-on.

“Not it. She. Marilyn’s her name. She didn’t do anything.”

“Men and their cars,” the woman joked.

Nathan turned his head to see her join him at the front of his car. She braced her hands on the

edge of the hood and leaned over, the muscles in her upper arms flexing as she moved, making her

tattoos jump enticingly. He wanted to spend hours examining them. Piecing together what each

one meant to her and why she’d wanted to get them inked on her body for all eternity.

“I don’t know why men think cars are female,” she continued, thankfully oblivious to his

thoughts. “Seems to me that they act much more like men. They do what they want no matter how

well someone takes care of them, and in the end will always let you down when you need them

the most.”

She didn’t look at him as she spoke, but continued to stare down into the wires and steel that

was Marilyn’s engine. Her words saddened him and made him want to hunt down every man

who’d ever let her down.

“I disagree,” Nathan said softly, his eyes trained on the woman’s face. He ran his hand over

the side of the car and said, “Marilyn might look rough on the outside, but when treated right, she

purrs. Not only that, but she’s mine to take care of and protect. In return for making sure she’s got

what she needs to stay healthy and happy, she stands by me, supports me, and helps me get where

I want to go. It’s a give-and-take relationship.”

The woman turned her head. “Are we still talking about cars?”

Nathan shrugged, keeping eye contact while memorizing everything he could about her. She

was wearing a lot of makeup. Her eyes were dark chocolate brown and smoky, and met his without

hesitation. Her lips were covered with dark lipstick, and long chain earrings brushed her shoulders

with every movement.

“I’m just telling you why I see my car as female.”

She rolled her eyes and looked back down at the engine, her earrings swinging with her

movements. Reaching forward, she bent over the edge of the hood and stood on her tiptoes to reach

a wire. Her arms were stretched out, and once again Nathan’s mind sank into the gutter. His fingers

clenched around the metal of the hood, and he locked himself in place so he didn’t move.

He’d only had sex in the missionary position. Of course he knew other positions existed, but

he hadn’t been with any woman long enough to experiment. But in his mind he could clearly

picture himself standing behind this woman as she leaned over his car, holding on to her hips as

he took her from behind. His thoughts astonished him, as he’d believed himself to be immune to

the lusty thoughts most men had. He’d honestly thought something was wrong with him, but this

slight woman was proving that everything he’d thought about himself, and sex, was wrong.

“There.”

The word was short and to the point. She stood upright next to him and wiped her hands on

her jeans.

“What?”

“That should solve your problem for now.”

“You fixed her?”

“For now, yeah,” she semirepeated.

“Damn,” Nathan breathed, impressed.

“What? You didn’t think a woman who looked like me would know anything about cars, did

you?”

“Honestly? No.”

“You think I was gonna mug you?” She folded her arms across her chest now, her eyes shooting

daggers at him.

Nathan held up his hands in capitulation. “The thought never crossed my mind. And there’s

nothing wrong with the way you look. I don’t know what you think you look like, but trust me,

you’re the most feminine woman I’ve seen in a long time.”

Her lip curled up in derision. “You don’t have to lie. I already fixed your car. You’re honestly

gonna stand there and tell me my tattoos didn’t make you nervous?”

Nathan’s brows drew together in confusion. “Why would your tattoos make me nervous?”

She waved a hand in the air. “Just forget it. The wires to your battery are completely corroded.

The connection is shot. It’ll hold long enough for you to get where you’re going, but I highly

suggest you get this hunk of junk into the shop. Remember, if you take care of her, she’ll take care

of you . . . right?”

Nathan nodded absently, still stuck on her tattoo comment. “You wanna know what I thought

when I first saw you?” he asked.

She looked surprised at his question but merely shrugged, as if she didn’t care one way or

another.

“I thought you were the sexiest woman I’ve ever seen in my life. And that you were so out of

my league, there’s no way you’d ever give a man like me a chance.”

She stared up at him with her mouth slightly agape, as if he’d suddenly sprouted wings and

was about to rise up into the sky.

He didn’t give her a chance to respond. “Your tattoos are gorgeous. They fit you perfectly. I

don’t know you, but they seem to match what I imagine your personality to be. Slightly impulsive,

passionate, with a no-holds-barred attitude, and when you find something you want, you go after

it with determination and don’t let anyone stand in your way.”

“Oh,” she murmured, looking away from him for the first time.

“Me? I’m a nerd. I’m more comfortable with my spreadsheets. Sexy women never seem to

take a second glance at me, and I’m not fishing for compliments, just being factual. So, no, I wasn’t

thinking that you’d know anything about cars when I turned around and saw you. I’ve got two

gallons of ice cream in a cooler in my trunk that I need to take into the office, and my nine-monthspregnant

sister-in-law would kill me if it melted. So, yeah, I’m thrilled you know something about

cars because the only thing I know is how to turn Marilyn on and that I need to fill her up every

two hundred miles, or she’ll let me know I’m neglecting her.”

Nathan knew his words were full of innuendo, but he couldn’t stop himself.

The fascinating woman in front of him licked her lips, but he didn’t think she was purposely

trying to be sexual. Which, of course, made it all that much more sexy.

“Yo! Sis! We going or what?”

Nathan turned his head to see a boy with black hair hanging out the window of a classic car.

He had no idea what make it was—he really didn’t know cars—but it looked sleek, shiny, and well

cared for. The kid’s upper body was hanging out of the front seat, his hands braced on the window

frame.

The woman in front of him didn’t respond, but reached around and pulled a card out of her

back pocket. “Your car really does need some work. I’m happy to help. I work at Clayson’s Auto

Body off Wolfensberger Road. It’s a bit out of the city, but if you’re interested . . .”

Nathan immediately held out his hand and took the business card. “I’m interested. I’ll call for

an appointment tomorrow.”

She nodded and gave him a small smile. It wasn’t the smirk that had been on her face earlier.

The one meant to keep people away. This was genuine and open.

“I’ll make sure to tell my boss you’ll be calling . . .” Her voice trailed off once more, this time

in an obvious attempt at getting his name.

“Nathan. Nathan Anderson,” he readily supplied, expecting her to reciprocate.

“Later, Nathan.” She nodded at him and backed away toward her car.

Nathan opened his mouth to say something else, anything to prolong their chat, but she’d

turned away and was striding confidently toward her car. He took a moment to admire her ass in

the tight jeans as she walked, but didn’t say another word as she climbed into the driver’s side and

drove out of the parking lot without another look back.

Reluctantly, and rather bemusedly, Nathan closed the hood of his car and got back inside. This

time Marilyn started up without any issues, just as the woman said she would.

Looking down at the business card in his hand, Nathan swore he could still feel the heat of her

body in the paper. Clayson’s Auto Body. There was a picture of a car with its hood up on the front

along with the address, phone number, and e-mail of the business. He turned it over absently and

froze.

Written on the back was a hastily scrawled note that simply said, Tell ’em Bailey sent you.

It was obviously something she’d written ahead of time on all the cards she carried, but that

wasn’t what stopped Nathan in his tracks.

Bailey.

Was it a coincidence that the woman he’d been searching for over the last few months was also

named Bailey? He and Alexis hadn’t found hide nor hair of Donovan’s ex-girlfriend. And they’d

looked.

Was it possible that the petite dynamo who had knocked him off-kilter and made him feel lust

for the first time in his life was the Bailey they’d been searching for? And what about the little

boy? He knew his brothers thought it was possible the kid was Donovan’s, but he hadn’t been

convinced then, and after seeing the boy, wasn’t convinced now.

Nathan had more questions than answers as he pulled out of the supermarket parking lot. The

second she’d handed him the card, he knew he’d be calling the shop as soon as they opened simply

to give him an excuse to see her again. But he’d also been obsessed with finding the elusive Bailey

for a long time, and he had a feeling she’d just miraculously fallen in his lap.

New York Times Bestselling Author

Claiming Bailey

Opposites attract in the third Ace Security novel from New York Times bestselling author Susan Stoker.

Bailey Hampton will do whatever it takes to keep both herself and her little brother safe from the vicious Inca Boyz gang. Hiding out in Castle Rock, Colorado, is only a temporary solution until she can earn enough money to get out of the state altogether. But when she meets handsome security nerd Nathan Anderson, she discovers a reason to stay and fight for what she wants.

Ace Security’s Nathan Anderson has always been the “numbers guy,” not the man any of the firm’s clients look to when their safety is threatened. But from the first time he ran into Bailey, she never made him feel like less of a protector than his brothers. Nathan was attracted to the petite, black-haired pixie with wild tattoos from the start, and by some miracle, she seems to return his interest.

But danger stalks Bailey and her brother, so it’s up to Nathan to channel his inner alpha and find a way to end the threat to their lives once and for all—and he’s not giving up Bailey without a fight.