Protecting Lulu

By: J.M. Jeffries

Chapter One

Noah Callahan could barely keep his eyes open . He’d spent the last week in Mexico extracting a witness who had the spine to testify against a Mexican drug cartel. After nearly sleepless week and twelve hours on a plane he was beat. Back in the day, he’d have hopped off the plane, found a cold beer, a hot blonde and called himself done. Not anymore. Even though he was only thirty-six, at the moment he felt ninety-six. He wanted nothing more than to sink into the comfortable black leather sofa against the wall and sleep for twenty-four hours, except Harrison had dragged him out of the terminal and into this meeting with a possible client before Noah had a chance to blink.

Wilder Bennington was a tall, lean, dark haired man wearing a slate gray ten thousand dollar suit that fit him to perfection, like the old world elegance of his office. Dark wood paneling covered the walls. A carpet deep enough to mask any sound stretched from wall to wall. The mahogany desk sat perpendicular to the windows so Bennington could enjoy the view. A sitting area at the other end of the large office contained large over-stuffed chairs in cream leather and two sofas in black leather. This was the room of a powerful man. A man who was comfortable with his power

The view out the window was prime Times Square real estate. Wilder Bennington had money and influence to go with his power. The background check Harrison had complied and Noah had read in the car on the way here had done nothing to prepare him for the man in person. Even though he knew as much as Harrison could find out about Bennington and his sister, Lulu, Noah was still impressed.

“I thought there would be more of you.” Bennington frowned.

“I asked your assistant to put our team in the conference room while Harrison and I talked to you first.”

“To decide if you wanted to take the job or not?”

This guy didn’t pull his punches. Noah respected that. “Something along those lines.”

Bennington tilted his head to the side. “I’m not here to audition for you.”

“We understand that, Mr. Bennington.” Harrison’s eyebrows rose. “Why hire us? You have your own security team.”

Bennington pinched the bridge of his nose. “My sister is not taking the threats seriously. Every suggestion from my security team has been turned aside or simply ignored.”

Being ex-Delta Force had taught Noah to read people quickly, a man’s survival depended on it. Bennington was a man used to getting his way. The fact that he wanted to hire Global Protective Agency meant things were going sideways in a way Bennington couldn’t control. “How so?”

The man’s jaw clenched. “Lulu refuses to believe anyone would dislike her enough to want to kill her.”

“A lot of people find it hard to believe someone wants to kill them.” Noah didn’t want to look a gift paycheck in the mouth but did he want to take a puff job? He didn’t need a New York society babe conjuring up fake threats just so she could run around New York with a gang of bodyguards in tow like little purse dogs. But then again, as a fairly new company Noah needed the money and doing a job for media tycoon Bennington would go a long way toward cementing his company’s reputation. Except if they were just spinning their wheels babysitting for some poor, little rich girl.

“Dave Larkins recommended you.” Bennington flexed his hands at his side.

“I’ve met Dave Larkins. He’s good at what he does.” Larkins, Bennington’s head of security, was a hard ass, ex-army ranger Noah had run into a couple of times in the Sandbox. The man had a rep for handling his business.

“He is, or he wouldn’t be working for me.”

This guy was wound really tight. “I see.”

Bennington’s eyes narrowed betraying a deeper level of tension. “Dave’s a good man, but Lulu introduced him to his wife and is also his son’s godmother. She can get him to do whatever she wants. I need someone who won’t cave in to my sister’s ability to wrap people around her little finger.”

“She sounds stubborn.” The background check had given Noah facts about these people, but not who they really were. His sense of caution deepened. He wanted to say not interested, but instead folded his arms over his chest and studied Bennington waiting. “Why not let the police handle this situation?”

Noah doubted the police would do much of anything except take a report. The department was under-staffed and over-worked and the current political climate was determined to down-size them even more.

Bennington let out a long breath. “You don’t read my newspaper do you?”

“I don’t.” Noah was a Times man. Not that there was anything wrong with Bennington Media’s many newspapers, Noah just liked the predictability of the Times.

Bennington stole a glance at his watch. “I’m not a fan of the new Police Commissioner. I’ve been very vocal about it.”

As far as Noah was concerned, a guy who owned one of the biggest media corporations could talk all the shit he wanted about whoever he wanted. From what he heard from his contacts in the NYPD, not many of the rank and file cops were fans either.

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