A family of heroes, all in dangerous jobs, all irrevocably tied to those they love. Read about the Marino clan in this fast-paced, emotional new series, To Serve and Protect, by NYT bestselling author Kathryn Shay.
Special Agent Whitney Dwyer sees the world in black and white, much to the chagrin of her beloved cousins, the Marino brothers. Her life is terrific: a supportive family, a varied job with mega opportunities for advancement and a fantastic friends-with-benefits lover. Beneath her tough exterior, though, lies a woman who was scarred in deep and dark ways by the horror of an accident that killed her parents. But Whitney’s life is knocked off its axis when she loses the man she now realizes she loves. To complicate matters, that man, Special Agent Max Blackwell, has made a decision he regrets immediately. Still, he and Whitney cannot come together again until she deals with what plagues her and he discovers what he truly wants out of life.
ONLY WITH YOU is back-dropped by the bombing of a federal building, a case assigned to Whitney and Max during their personal turmoil. The book also delves into the inner workings of the Secret Service and the danger federal agents encounter every day. Toss in a sizzling relationship and readers will find this story a page-turner.
If you liked ABOVE AND BEYOND, be sure to read the entire To Serve and Protect series: ABOVE AND BEYOND, SAY YOU’LL STAY, ONLY WITH YOU, NO OTHER LOVE, and COME BACK TO ME.
Max Blackwell answered the door right away. He must be anxious, too. Good thing, because Whitney Dwyer was about to make the biggest move of her life.
“Hey, Whitney. Come on in.”
Huh. He usually greeted her with a sexist term like doll or sweetie or babe, which he’d initially used to needle her. But the terms had become endearments over the years they’d been together. Yet…now that she got a good look at him, he seemed tired. Lines around his mouth suggested maybe the expression was more one of worry.
Thankfully, she could always be herself with him. Once inside, she faced him. “You okay?”
“Good.” She threw herself into his arms. He smelled great, like the woods and outdoors. She hugged him tight. In the past when she did that, he’d lift her up, twirl her around and kiss her senseless. This time he only held on.
So she’d take matters into her own hands. She pulled his head down. But he resisted. Instead of giving her one of his searing kisses, he grasped her arms and stepped back. “Don’t, honey. We have to talk.”
Dread she’d known more times than she cared to acknowledge shot through her. The feeling was exacerbated by how well she knew this man. “Something is wrong.”
He held her hands in his. “No, not wrong. Different.”
Still holding onto her, he led her out of the foyer and into the main living space off to the right. She took a seat on one of his dark leather sofas. Because he was acting strangely, she was glad he dropped down close to her. Something made her wait for him to start.
He glanced over her shoulder for a minute before he looked at her. “Things have changed for me, Whitney. I think this has been coming for a while.”
“Changed how? Professionally or personally?”
He cleared his throat. “Personally.”
Kernels of information formed in her brain. Past talks…
Does this arrangement suit you, Whitney? Between you and me?
Yeah, sure. It’s the best. You?
Well, I’m ten years older than you are. Sometimes, I think about where I’ll end up when we split.
I never think about us splitting.
So don’t you think about it, either…
She gripped his fingers. “Tell me straight, Max.” The tremor in her voice annoyed her, but she was scared now.
“Fair enough. I want to settle down and have kids.”
“Kids?” She never expected this. “You said that wasn’t in the cards for you.”
“I hadn’t even turned forty when we started working together. I wasn’t thinking about growing older.”
Oh, my God. “And now you are?”
“Yes.” His expression became incredibly sad, making her heart clutch in her chest. “I’ve found someone else I think I can build a future with.”
“I’ve met another woman.” His face reddened as if he knew he’d done something wrong.
This couldn’t be, yet… “Angela Grimes.”
Dark brows rose. “How did you know?”
The expression on Angela’s face when she sat gazing up at Max in the classroom that day at Rowley. How she answered his phone the night over Thanksgiving break, when Max hadn’t come to the Marino Thanksgiving. And where had he gone Christmas Eve when they’d all been invited to the White House party?
“Whitney, I asked how you knew.”
“I’m sorry. I should have been more careful.”
A horrible thought sliced through her. “H-have you slept with her?”
“No! You and I promised each other we’d be exclusive while we were together.”
“And now you want to end our relationship?”
“As it’s been, yes. I want more in my life.”
God, the irony of all this. She thought of the advice her cousin Connor had given to her over Thanksgiving. To go to him. To tell him what she’d discovered about her feelings for him. Unfortunately, Max had gotten an assignment with the CIA out of town for the two weeks right before the next holiday, so she had to wait. Then he’d gone away with his father after Christmas and hadn’t come back until today. Apparently, she was too late.
She tried to erect the infamous Secret Service armor she used to protect herself with. But instead, she was defenseless.
“Whit, we’ll still be friends.”
“You know that won’t happen.” She gripped his hand now. “We spend all our free time together, in bed, going on vacation, to movies and concerts.”
“We’ll still see each other. I promise.”
Deep in her heart Whitney knew that wouldn’t happen. “I don’t understand, Max. How could you make this life-changing decision unilaterally? Without consulting me?”
“I didn’t want to put you on the spot.”
“Committing to something you don’t want.” His words were harsh, as if he were defending himself.
“I should have had a choice.”
Challenge always incited him. She could see the anger flare in his eyes. “All right. Are you ready to get married and have a baby?”
She rose and she crossed to the window. It had started snowing harder, and flakes gathered on the window. She thought about his question. Was she ready? After a long time, she turned to him and folded her arms over her chest. “No, Max, I’m not ready to get married now, or ever have family. But I’ve had an epiphany over the last month. I know one thing. I’m in love with you.”
“I love you, too, but that’s not enough.”
“I said I was in love with you. Romantically.”
He watched her. She hadn’t realized how her life could change in an instant. When he stood, she stepped back.
“I’m sorry, babe, that’s not enough. I’m not sure it’s even true. Whenever we’re apart for a while, you always miss me, want to be closer to me. I feel the same. Marrying me and having my child is a whole different ballgame.” He arched a brow. “One I don’t think you want to play in.”