Romantic Suspense Saturday: All for Love

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Take a peek at this week’s #SaturdaySuspense editor’s choice.

All for Love by Susanne Matthews

Title: All for Love
Author: Susanne Matters
Genre: Inspirational Romantic Suspense
Format: eBook; Paperback

To overcome your fear, you must first face it.

Someone is out to destroy Greg Robertson and everyone he has ever loved. After an accident leaves his teenage daughter depressed and distraught, Greg will do anything to make her happy again, including hiring a bodyguard to protect her.

Olivia Cummings lost both her fiance and her cousin in a deadly avalanche. She has vowed never to set foot on a ski hill again. But now, working as a bodyguard with Marshall Security, Olivia must face her greatest fears to save Greg and his daughter.

Something about Olivia’s determination strikes a chord in Greg, but will she be the salvation he needs, or will he be her destruction?

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Andrew Gregory Robertson raised his coffee mug to his lips and took a large mouthful, allowing the rich full-bodied coffee to soothe his parched throat and dislodge the lump of envy blocking it, and prayed he’d made the right choice coming here. If Tim refused to help him, he wasn’t sure what he’d try next. This had to work. He was out of options. 

Left hand in his pants’ pocket, the other holding his cup, he stood beside his cousin looking down at the hotel concourse. Despite the hustle and bustle of early holiday patrons and staff, he was sure the only thing the man could see were his wife and daughter. Vicki, a tall, leggy blonde, was supervising the crew putting up the main entrance’s decorations for tomorrow night’s Charity Ball. Four-month-old Jessica was strapped to her mother’s chest in a bright red, geometrically-patterned cradle carrier, oblivious to all the work going on around her. 

You’re jammy, Tim. Ah hawp ye realize that.” His Scottish words and inflection made his cousin turn away from the window and raise his eyebrows in question. 

“Queen’s English, Greg. I can’t figure out what you are saying half the time.” 

Greg chuckled. Some things never changed, and that was a good thing. Tim still called him by his middle name the way he had in school. To the rest of the world, he was Drew Robertson or perhaps A. G. Robertson, or even George Stanton, well-known author, but no one but Tim and his wife ever called him Greg. 

He smiled. “I’m blessed, that’s for sure, and if I forget it for a moment, I only have to look at my gorgeous wife and daughter to remind me how close I came to losing them both. I don’t deserve either of them, but God’s been good to me.” 

Aye, He has indeed,” Greg answered, fighting to keep the sudden pang of envy out of his voice. 

Tim reheated his coffee from the carafe on the table and sat on the edge of his desk. “Now, as much as I enjoy your company, are you going to tell me why you’re here? I don’t believe for a second you’ve just dropped by. Haven’s a long way from Baltimore.” He laughed. “Agent aside, nobody travels over three thousand miles for nothing, especially not the week before Christmas. I can’t believe your agent is that demanding, and with all the other problems you’ve had … So what gives?” 

Greg sighed. He’d hoped for more time to relax and organize his thoughts before broaching the matter, but Tim was as perceptive as ever. 

“Is there something wrong with the estate? I’d planned to take Vicki and Jessie home in the spring.” 

Greg shook his head. “Nae. Haven is fine, and I love it there. I appreciate your generosity in letting me use it, especially after what’s happened. Too many people know about my flat in Aberdeen. I’ve never needed a bolt hole before—at least not a secure one, and thanks to Grandfather and his paranoia, no one comes or goes unseen at Haven.” 

“It’s why I offered it,” Tim said, taking a mouthful of coffee. He made a face and added more sugar to his cup. “Haven’s a good place for you to write and work things out. No distractions, and no crazy fans trying to bribe their way into your rooms.” 

Greg sobered at the memory of the last woman who’d attempted that. He’d never revealed her name to anyone, and had sent her packing, but… He finished his coffee and refilled his cup. How long had he been awake? Twenty-four hours? More? He felt as if he hadn’t had a good night’s sleep in months—six months to be exact. 

“It’s Sheena then. How is she handling things?” Tim’s voice was filled with concern. 

“Not well. It’s difficult for a fifteen-year-old girl to accept a new face and the way her life changed in the blink of an eye. She’s lost faith in herself and everyone else. She blames me for all of it, including her mother’s death.” 

“I’m sure you’re exaggerating. Teenagers tend to be insecure at the best of times, and to have your life ripped apart like hers was, would be difficult for anyone. Cut her some slack.” 

Greg ran his hand through his shoulder length hair, dislodging the leather tie holding it back. “I’ve tried, believe me I’ve tried, but I can’t seem to get her to understand the situation. It’s like trying to herd cats—it just doesn’t work. Her attitude would test the patience of a saint, and you ken I’m not a patient man.” 

“On that we agree. You have a lot of wonderful qualities, but tolerance and forbearance aren’t among them. Nadia wouldn’t be my idea of a role model for anyone. She didn’t strike me as being particularly religious either, so if Sheena did have faith in God, it’s been sorely tested by all this. You look terrible, by the way, which leads me to think there’s more to this visit than your frustration over a fifteen-year-old’s attitude. What’s the real problem?” His cousin’s brow furrowed. 

Despite Tim’s accurate assessment, Greg wasn’t ready to divulge the truth of the situation, at least not all of it, just yet. He was still trying to work out some of the details himself. Why did I ever think this would work? 

“And lighten up on the brogue, buddy. You’re hard to understand even when you speak English. How about trying out the mid-Atlantic dialect you practiced years ago when you thought you’d be a Hollywood screenwriter?” Tim laughed. 

Greg grinned. “That may well be at the root of all this, but if you think that’ll help, why not?” he asked, his voice demonstrating the accent now rusty from lack of use. 

“It can’t hurt.” 

Tim had been raised in the United States and often found Greg’s thick Scottish brogue hard to understand, and since they usually emailed rather than talk in person like this, Greg could appreciate his confusion. At home, he spoke his native language most of the time and English when he had to. According to his agent, his accent added to his alter ego’s appeal, and since he had an ear for such things, mimicking voices came easily to him. 

Aye. I’ll do my best, but if I lapse, be patient.” 

Tim smiled and nodded. “I know it’s been a while, but trust me on this. It’s like riding a bicycle. It’ll come back to you quickly enough.” 

Greg laughed, feeling less stressed than he had in weeks. Tim was good for him. It was too bad they saw one another so rarely. “And we both know who missed the turn and landed face-first in the bog.” 

Tim joined in his laughter as they shared the memory of that incredibly muddy day. Greg took another mouthful of coffee as he gathered his thoughts. 

“Things have gotten more complicated than I expected. Sheena came home from the hospital last Friday, and she’s absolutely miserable. She misses her mother and her old life. She’s accusing me of keeping her prisoner. I’ve done my best to reason with her, but she’s in pain, and I can’t reach her. We’re strangers, thanks to her mother, and that doesn’t make any of this any easier on either of us.” 

Tim let out a breath and shook his head. “That’s got to be tough.” 

Frustrated, Greg ran his free hand through his unbound hair. At his age, most of his friends were going bald, but he had more than enough hair for two men. Maybe it was time to consider getting it cut. 

“You have no idea. I’ll be back at Haven for Christmas, but it’ll be a miserable holiday to be sure. The last thing my daughter wants is to spend time with me.” 

Tim touched his shoulder, and the compassion in his eyes was almost Greg’s undoing. He swallowed hard. This was the opening he’d been waiting for. 

“Now that you have a daughter, Tim, wouldn’t you move Heaven and Earth to make her happy and keep her safe?” 

Anxiously, he watched the play of emotions across Tim’s face. Only a year apart in age, neither man had been part of the Robertson family in their early years. As boys, they’d attended the same boarding school and had grown close. Tim, who controlled Robertson Enterprises, the conglomerate of businesses the family owned and ran, had been instrumental in getting his first book published, and Greg owed him for a lot more than the annual stipend all Robertson family members got. 

Tim rubbed his chin beard, a tell-tale sign of his concern or confusion—possibly both. Greg needed him to understand his desperation. Tim was his only shot at making this possible. While money wasn’t an obstacle, there wasn’t enough time to try and orchestrate this from scratch. 

“I’d do anything for my daughter,” Tim answered slowly. “Jessie means the world to me. I’m sorry Nadia’s dead, but she wasn’t one of my favorite people. She never struck me as overly maternal, which is why I couldn’t understand her refusal to give you more time with your daughter. Seeing Sheena for two weeks a year didn’t allow much of an opportunity for you to build a relationship. It was cruel and self-centered of her.” 

“Nadia was what she was. I’ll not speak ill of the dead,” he said, slipping back into his Scottish brogue. “No one can change the past. It’s the living I’ve got to protect.” 

“What do you want from me?” 

“I need your help. I know I’ve no right to ask you to do this, but I can’t lose my daughter—not now that I have a chance to be the dad I’ve always wanted to be.” 

“You’re family, Greg, and family does what it has to do. It took me a while to learn that. Whatever you need, you’ve got. Start at the beginning and tell me everything.” 

Greg stepped away from the window and began to pace. “Sheena was scheduled to try out for Great Britain’s National Junior Alpine Ski Team next March. Since the accident, she’s convinced herself she can’t do it. I refuse to believe that.” 

Tim frowned, looked out on the concourse once more before walking over to him. “Maybe you’re pushing her too hard, too fast. She’s probably afraid she’ll fail, and doesn’t want to look bad in front of her peers. You know what that’s like. I seem to remember you did the same thing after you got hurt playing cricket.” 

Greg shook his head. “It’s not the same. I was a so-so player. She’s a fantastic skier, naturally talented. It was her dream. She can’t give up without trying. She’s lost too much already.” 

“Yeah, but she’s been hurt…” 

“The doctors say none of her injuries should affect her ability to ski. I have faith in her. There’s an International Junior Alpine Ski Trial in Vermont in six weeks. I want to bring her to the United States so she can train anonymously. She’s agreed to give it a try, but only if I don’t accompany her.” 

“I see, but where do I fit in? If she needs a secure place to stay in Vermont, I’m sure there’s room in one of our hotels, and the staff would take good care of her.” 

“Thanks, but it’s your brother-in-law’s help I need. He operates a personal security company. For her safety, Sheena needs a female bodyguard, one who’ll be with her day and night, on and off the slopes, but one who’ll fit in, be unobtrusive. If he doesn’t have someone on staff who can ski, he may know someone else who does. Understand this though. I won’t leave her again. I can’t.” 

“But you just said Sheena agreed to go only if you didn’t.” 

Aye,” he said, relapsing into Scottish, “and that’s the crux of the kinch.” 

Tim pursed his lips. “I can talk to Jack for you, but I don’t see how having a bodyguard will keep her safe if you insist on being there. Sheena may have a new face, you don’t. If you go anywhere near her, she’ll recognize you as will the press, and someone’s bound to reopen that can of worms you’ve tried so hard to seal. Your mug is too well-known to try to get around that.” 

“I know. That’s where your expertise comes in—the real reason I’m here. I brought a certain bag with me from Haven. I need a makeover. I want you to turn me into one of your alter egos, give me an identity no one will question. Help me keep my daughter safe and make her happy once more.” 

Greg knew the pleading in his voice had come through loud and clear. It took time, money, and proficiency to create a new identity for someone, an identity he might have to assume far longer than he expected. George Stanton, the pseudonym he used as an author, might be able to hide from the world from now on, but he, Andrew Gregory Robertson, the man and father, had to be able to come and go. Sheena needed a life, and he was the only one who could give it her. To do it, he needed to become someone else. 

Until he’d met Vicki, Tim had hidden himself behind several identities—alter egos with established credentials—the kind no one would question. As one of the world’s richest bachelors, he’d avoided the limelight—and all the gold diggers residing in it—like the plague. His various identities allowed him to come and go as he pleased. Success in life, as in business, was in the details. There was a slight Robertson resemblance between them—a resemblance Greg hoped would work in his favor. 

While Tim had spent years hiding his identity from the media, Greg, as George Stanton, had embraced it. As a best-selling author, publicity was his bread and butter. George Stanton’s photograph, with his signature shoulder length, light brown curls, his clean shaven baby face, and hazel eyes, made greener by his choice of contact lenses, was on the back of all of his books, on sales’ posters, on his social media sites, everywhere. 

With Graven Image being made into a movie, keeping a low profile either as George Stanton or Drew Robertson would be harder than ever. Once he completed the personal appearances his agent had booked for January, George Stanton would withdraw from the public eye ostensibly to work on his latest manuscript. Drew Robertson had to disappear with him. 

He could hide out at Haven, the Robertson family home, a veritable fortress of security thanks their grandfather’s paranoia. Tim had let him move into the house after Nadia’s death when the press wouldn’t leave him alone. While he and Sheena would be safe there, she wouldn’t be happy. What kind of life would she have locked away as securely as Rapunzel in her tower? She needed her freedom and with a new face and a new identity, she could have it. Could he? 

The intercom on Tim’s desk buzzed startling them both. Tim walked over and pressed the button. 

“Yes, Mavis?” 

“I know you asked not to be disturbed, but I wanted to let you know Veronica, Jack, and Alexis have arrived. I’ve spoken to Vicki, and she’s meeting them at the door.” 

“Thanks. Let Howard know they’re here. Tell him I’ll be up in about ten minutes. When’s Peter getting back?” 

“He should be here by dinner. You’re going to have to stop sending my husband around the world. I miss him.” 

Tim laughed. 

“I’d send you with him, but what would I do without you?” 

Greg heard the teasing and affection in Tim’s voice. Over the years, he’d developed a close relationship with his staff, one more like family than employees. All Greg had was his agent and Sheena, and neither one of them treated him in a loving fashion. The loneliness he’d felt all these years hadn’t bothered him. He lived in his mind with his characters, and they’d been enough, but suddenly, he wanted more—he wanted what Tim had found. 

Greg heard Mavis’s laughter. “I can imagine the trouble you’d get in.” 

“Moi?” Tim chuckled. “You’re right. I’d make a mess of things. Can you please ask Howard to have the other guest room readied? My cousin will be staying for a couple of days. Don’t forget, you and Peter are joining us for dinner tonight.” 

“I’ll let Howard know. Don’t worry, we’ll be there. I’m sure Peter will monopolize you at some point.” 

She hung up, and Greg watched Tim move away from the desk and walk back to him. Despite the light-hearted exchange he’d just had with his secretary, Tim’s face was solemn, and Greg’s heart beat faster. He clenched his wet-palmed fist at his side. Tim had made his decision. 

“I’ll do everything I can to help you, Greg, but I have some stipulations. Most importantly, Vicki has to agree. I promised her those identities would never see the light of day again. I’d planned to destroy them the next time I went to Haven. I almost lost her because of my subterfuge and lies. If you can convince her to support your cause, to let you assume one of my former identities, then, we’re good to go. If not, we’ll try to come up with something else.” 

Greg’s author mind filled with questions and scenarios worthy of his next novel, but he tamped down his curiosity and imagination. “Agreed.” 

Tim looked at him directly. “Secondly, Peter will draft a document making this identity legal. In an emergency, the authorities will be able to access all of your information, including your real name. That way, if anything happens to you, and God forbid it should, we’ll know right away.” 

“Of course.” 

Tim pointed toward the lobby. 

“Here comes the rest of the answer to your problems.” Tim indicated the couple Vicki was greeting, and Greg let out the breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. 

“The stunning brunette carrying the baby is my sister-in-law, Veronica, and the frazzled guy holding the diaper bags is Jack Marshall, owner of Marshall Security. The baby is my niece, Alexis. Lexi’s a week older than Jessie.” 

Greg smiled. “I thought they’d look more alike. Vicki’s a good four inches taller, and as fair as her sister is dark. No one would realize they were twins.” 

Tim laughed. “Wait until you get to know them. The three of us may have spent time together in Paris, but Vicki was on her best behavior. She can be quite the imp when she sets her mind to it, and together, there’s no end to what they can do. They can be most persuasive. If Lexi and Jessie take after their mothers, you can be sure the future won’t be dull.” 

Greg could see the love radiating from his cousin. Imp or not, he loved his wife deeply. 

“They may not look alike, but believe me, they’re so similar in character, it’s downright eerie. You’ll see soon enough.” Tim shook his head. “They speak simultaneously, finish one another’s sentences, can sense when the other’s hurting, and when they gang up on you, forget it. You’re toast.” 

For the first time in days Greg felt hopeful. He watched the women hugging one another, each with a tiny bundle in her arms, while the man with them stood aside, an indulgent look on his face. Jealousy speared him. For years, he’d convinced himself domesticity was the last thing he wanted. Sheena was his heir; it should be enough. Now, he craved someone to love. He shook his head and smiled sadly. 

“As I said before, you’re very blessed. You don’t have to put me up in the penthouse. You’ve got plenty of company. I can pay for a room.” 

“Nonsense. The holidays are all about family, and you’re family too—that is unless you’re trying to avoid crying babies in the middle of the night.” Tim laughed. 

Greg raised his hands as if to deny the accusation. “I sleep like a rock. If Adam’s snoring never woke me up, I doubt a crying baby would.” 

“Don’t be too sure of that. Baby girls have a whole different decibel level. How is your step-brother?” 

“He’s doing well—got promoted to inspector last spring. We’ll never be best friends, but things are better now that his mother is gone. He convinced Scotland Yard to keep a lid on most of the details about the accident. He and his wife, Isobel, spent a lot of time with Sheena during her recovery—he was attached to her security detail. They’re staying at Haven with her until I get back.” 

“I’m glad you’ve worked things out. I hope you’ve brought some books with you. Veronica’s an avid reader, and while she has an electronic reader, she’s a paper-book-in-my-hand kind of girl. Once she realizes the great George Stanton is present, she’ll be demanding autographed copies. 

“I’m doing a book signing in New York in a few weeks. I’ll be happy to have signed copies of all my books sent to her.” 

“Before we go upstairs, meet the in-laws, and get you settled, let’s get the rest of this out in the open. What haven’t you told me?” Tim gaze was fixed on him. He couldn’t avoid the truth any longer. 

“There’s been a development…” 

* * * * 

Olivia Cummings rolled over and tried to hit the snooze button on the alarm, remembering she’d moved it onto her dresser for that very reason. Like it or not, she had to get up. She opened her eyes and groaned. The room was still dark. Why wouldn’t it be? The sun wasn’t up at five in the morning in mid-December. She threw back the covers, shivered, and reached to turn on the bedside lamp. She blinked owl-like at the ensuing brightness. 

“Maybe someday I’ll understand why perfectly sane people use automatic thermostat controls to turn a comfortable apartment into a refrigerator at night,” she said aloud, her voice echoing in the darkness. “Well, at least I can’t see my breath.” 

She plunged her feet into the mules beside the bed, grabbed her housecoat, and went into the kitchen to make coffee. The single brew machine was one of the few things in the apartment that belonged to her. She’d feel better after she gave her body its morning dose of caffeine. While she waited for the coffee maker to do its job, she went over what she’d packed last night. One of the problems with going home at this time of year was everything she had to take with her—heavy coat, boots, clothes, gifts—she’d look like an Inuit at the Philadelphia airport, but without the warmer coat, she’d freeze in Denver. 

The rasp of the coffee maker indicated her cup was full, and she reached for it gratefully. Her flight was at nine, and the airlines insisted she check in two hours early. Security, even on domestic flights was heightened at this time of year. She sighed. The last place she wanted to go was to a ski resort in the Colorado Rockies, but when that was home, what choice did she have? 

She looked down at her slim ankle, debating whether or not to bandage it. It hadn’t given her any problems in months, but it was her crutch, her protection. Like a guardian angel’s shield, it would keep her out of danger. Besides, what was one more lie? She’d told a thousand of them in the last five years. Anything to keep her old friends and family from badgering her out onto skis would be worth it. 

She reached for the lightweight, polymer and foam removable brace she’d pulled out and wiped down last night. “Shower first, and then, let’s get you on. At least you fit inside my UGGs,” she spoke to the brace as if it were an old trusted friend. She’d let everyone think her leg and ankle were still too weak to use. She hated dissembling like this, but she didn’t want anyone to know the real reason she’d chosen never to ski again. That was between her and God. 

Coffee mug in hand, she headed to the bathroom, to get ready. She hadn’t been home for Christmas since the accident, but Mom and Dad wouldn’t allow her that luxury this year. If she could avoid the slopes and the chalet, it might not be too bad; if she couldn’t, the pseudo injury would limit her skiing to the lodge. 

Forgive me, God, but I’m just not ready to let it go. 

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