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BEVERLY BARTON
Jack's Christmas Mission

Jack's Christmas Mission
BEVERLY BARTON

The last thing Peggy Jo Riley wanted this holiday was a hard-boiled charmer in her house 24/7.But if she wanted to stay alive, she needed Jack Parker. And once she was in Jack's well-muscled arms, she realized just how much she needed him….Up until the moment he'd seen desire flicker in her pretty eyes, bodyguard Jack Parker had thought Peggy Jo Riley was just another assignment. But the vulnerability he'd glimpsed under this cool beauty's armor made him ache to do a whole lot more for Peggy Jo. Like kiss her till she gave him her trust. And love her till she gave him her heart…

“Your job is to protect me, not comfort me.”

Acting purely on instinct, Jack shoved the bedroom door fully open and then brushed the back of his hand against Peggy Jo’s flushed cheek. “My job is to take care of you. And that includes giving you a shoulder to cry on, if you need it.”

“I don’t need—”

He placed his index finger over her lips, adeptly silencing her rejection. “If you’re feeling a little shaky right now, that’s to be expected. And if you don’t want any of your friends to see you weak, then turn to me, Miss Peggy Jo. I’m your man.”

She stared at him, and for a couple of seconds he thought she was going to succumb. But suddenly the barriers came back up. “You’re mistaken, Mr. Parker. You’re my bodyguard. Nothing more. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’d like to go to bed.”

Dear Reader,

The year is almost over, but the excitement continues here at Intimate Moments. Reader favorite Ruth Langan launches a new miniseries, THE LASSITER LAW, with By Honor Bound. Law enforcement is the Lassiter family legacy—and love is their future. Be there to see it all happen.

Our FIRSTBORN SONS continuity is almost at an end. This month’s installment is Born in Secret, by Kylie Brant. Next month Alexandra Sellers finishes up this six-book series, which leads right into ROMANCING THE CROWN, our new twelve-book Intimate Moments continuity continuing the saga of the Montebellan royal family. THE PROTECTORS, by Beverly Barton, is one of our most popular ongoing miniseries, so don’t miss this seasonal offering, Jack’s Christmas Mission. Judith Duncan takes you back to the WIDE OPEN SPACES of Alberta, Canada, for The Renegade and the Heiress, a romantic wilderness adventure you won’t soon forget. Finish up the month with Once Forbidden… by Carla Cassidy, the latest in her miniseries THE DELANEY HEIRS, and That Kind of Girl, the second novel by exciting new talent Kim McKade.

And in case you’d like a sneak preview of next month, our Christmas gifts to you include the above-mentioned conclusion to FIRSTBORN SONS, Born Royal, as well as Brand-New Heartache, award-winning Maggie Shayne’s latest of THE OKLAHOMA ALL-GIRL BRANDS. See you then!

Yours,

Leslie J. Wainger

Executive Senior Editor

Jack’s Christmas Mission

Beverly Barton

BEVERLY BARTON

has been in love with romance since her grandfather gave her an illustrated book of Beauty and the Beast. An avid reader since childhood, Beverly wrote her first book at the age of nine. After marriage to her own “hero” and the births of her daughter and son, Beverly chose to be a full-time homemaker, aka wife, mother, friend and volunteer. The author of over thirty-five books, Beverly is a member of Romance Writers of America and helped found the Heart of Dixie chapter in Alabama. She has won numerous awards and has made the Waldenbooks and USA Today bestseller lists.

In loving memory of my sister-in-law Winnie Sue Bradford, whose beautiful smile and boisterous laughter brightened the world around her. We love you, Sis.

Contents

Prologue

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Epilogue

Prologue

“I love you to death!”

Peggy Jo Riley stared in disbelief at the message scrawled in red paint on the mirror. Half a second later her mind registered that not only was her dressing room at WLOK totally ransacked but that her secret admirer had somehow gotten inside the television studio and into her private quarters, adjacent to her office. An adrenaline rush surged through her body, jangling her nerves. Her mouth opened to scream, but the sound froze in her throat, becoming a silent cry. What if he were still in here somewhere? Hiding in a closet? Behind the paneled screen where she often changed clothes? Beneath the daybed? Her accelerated heartbeat roared inside her head, temporarily deafening her to all other sounds.

The sudden touch of a hand on her shoulder jarred Peggy Jo into action. She yelled as she whirled around to face her attacker, ready to retaliate with the self-defense tactics she had learned from the experts who had appeared on her television show last year.

“Don’t!” the woman cried. “It’s me. Jill.”

With fear still pumping through her system like an insidious poison, Peggy Jo took several deep, calming breaths as she looked directly at her agent, Jill Lennard. Suddenly she remembered that Jill had driven in from Atlanta today because they had made plans to go out for dinner, after she taped two episodes of Self-Made Woman.

“Oh, God, Jill, I’m sorry,” Peggy Jo said. “I almost attacked you. I thought—”

Jill shoved past Peggy Jo to take a closer look at the dressing room. Shaking her head, she voiced a strong curse word. “No wonder you went berserk when I touched you. I was afraid this would happen. This is absolutely the last straw.” Jill backed out of the room. “Come on, we’re getting the station’s security to check for an intruder, and then we’re calling the police.”

“How could he have gotten in here?” Peggy Jo didn’t resist when Jill grabbed her arm and pulled her out of the dressing room and into her office.

“I don’t know how it could have happened, but after this, maybe Chet Compton will listen to me. As the station’s manager, it’s his job to make sure there’s enough security to see to it that no unauthorized people can just wander around in the building. This incident goes to show you what I’ve been trying to tell you for months now—this guy, whoever the hell he is, isn’t going to stop with just writing you dozens of sick fan letters and making threatening phone calls.” Jill gave Peggy Jo a gentle shove. “Sit.”
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