* Author Spotlight * COLTON’S SECRET BODYGUARD by Jane Godman

Colton’s Secret Bodyguard
(The Coltons of Roaring Spring)


His mission: keep her safe, no matter what…

A Coltons of Roaring Springs thriller

Just as Bree Colton is about to take the local art world by storm, someone is determined to sabotage her success…unless Rylan Bennet can keep her safe. Bree doesn’t want anyone to protect her—not even gorgeous Rylan, whose secrets threaten them both. But can the former soldier win the battle for Bree’s heart and the war against a sinister foe?



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JANE GODMAN is a 2019 Romantic Novelists’ Award winner and 2018 Daphne du Maurier Award finalist. She writes thrillers for Harlequin Romantic Suspense/Mills and Boon Heroes and paranormal romance for Harlequin Nocturne/Mills and Boon Supernatural and St. Martin’s Press Romance. She also self publishes her historical and gothic stories.

Jane was born in Scotland and has lived in Germany, Wales, Malta, South Africa, and England. She still gets the urge to travel, although these days she tends to head for a Spanish beach, or a European city that is steeped in history. 

When she isn’t reading or writing romance, Jane enjoys cooking, spending time with her family, and enjoying the antics of her dogs, Gravy and Vera.  


 Connect with Jane Godman on the web:

Website   |   Facebook   |    Twitter   |   Goodreads

Do you have a process for how you come up with ideas for new books?

I don’t have a particular process, but I collect ideas as they come along. They either pop randomly into my head, or will be triggered by a news story, a picture, even an old building. I keep an “Ideas” file on my laptop. Nothing ever gets deleted, but I look at it now and then and know some of them will never see the light of day!

How does writing a book in a continual series like The Coltons of Roaring Springs differ from a single title or one of your own series?

Running over a twelve-month period, the Coltons books are serialized with a different author picking up the story each month. Think of a soap opera, with all the associated family drama, then add in murder, intrigue, and a steamy romance (of course)! The difference between this, and writing a book for which I have sole responsibility, is the need to liaise closely with the other authors and the editors. For the sake of continuity, it’s important to make sure we all get the details right.

Do you have a favorite snack or beverage that you have by your side as you write?

I’m English, so it’s the stereotypical cup of tea! 


Chapter 1

Bree Colton had stopped trying to reprogram herself. Some people were larks, others were owls. Larks were cheery rise-and-shine morning people, the sort who started yawning once darkness fell. Owls were the alarm-clock-smashing, dance-till-dawn types.

Bree was a night person, at her best between midnight and 4:00 a.m.

Which meant that right now, at eight thirty in the morning, she was having trouble remembering her own name. Over the years, she had developed strategies for dealing with her daybreak intolerance. The first stage was caffeine. Rocket fuel strength, without a trace of cream or sugar. Bree had trained her assistant to keep the coffee coming until she was ready to face the world. Most mornings, it took a long time.

Her other tactic solved two problems. One of her most precious possessions was her digital recorder, which, as well as helping overcome the morning brain fog, was also an aid to coping with her dyslexia.

Every evening, before she left the gallery, she would record the following day’s to-do list. Her first task each morning was to link the recorder up to her laptop, so she could upload her list into her voice-activated diary. Then, of course, she had to get her newly caffeine-fueled body moving and do the things she had planned.

After taking a long slug of coffee, she pulled open the top left drawer of her desk and reached inside without looking. It was where she always placed her recorder and when her fingers didn’t automatically close around it, she frowned. A quick search through the contents of the drawer confirmed her worst fears. The recorder wasn’t there.

She bit back an exclamation. The forthcoming art show was taking up all her time, and she’d worked late the previous night. It had been almost nine o’clock when she’d finally left the office. Scrunching her forehead, she made an effort to remember. She could recall dictating her list. Then what?

I’m sure I put the recorder in the drawer.

If that was the case, where was it now? Bree had locked the gallery doors last night and opened them again this morning. No one else could have gotten into her office. No one had any reason to. Even if they had, why would they remove her device and not take anything else?

The answer was simple. It hadn’t happened. Her memory was just playing tricks on her, fooling her into thinking that, because she always followed a certain routine, she had done it again last night. Clearly, she had put the recorder somewhere else. The question was…where?

Huffing out a breath, she drank the rest of her coffee while emptying her purse onto the desktop in the hope that she might have picked up the recorder with her cell phone. Even as she did, she remembered that she’d been talking on her cell as she left the gallery.

Reassuring my mom that there haven’t been any more threatening emails.

Briefly, she rested her chin on her hand and gazed at the screensaver on her laptop. It was a view across the valley from the beautiful farmhouse where she had grown up. Evening sunlight glinted on the snow-covered fields of the CC Farm, while Pine Peak dominated the scene. The towering mountain provided the skiing and natural springs that made the resort such a popular tourist destination.

Normally, the tranquil scene soothed her. However, today, it made her feel restless. It was a reminder of her Colton heritage, and that was what the menacing emails had been about. Even though the anonymous sender had called her hateful names because of the color of her skin, the underlying message had gone deeper. You Coltons are only good for using and taking advantage of those who are less fortunate.

Furthermore, the sender had said that if she had any sense, she would pack her bags and head back to her life of privilege on her parents’ farm. If she didn’t? The most recent emails had included some sickening images of what would happen to her if she ignored the warnings.

Small wonder she had lost concentration and mislaid her recorder. It was a minor lapse, unimportant and only slightly inconvenient. She could remember what she needed to do today. It was just…

What did I do with it?

Pushing her chair back from the desk, she went through to her assistant’s office. The two rooms were separated by a short corridor that included a private bathroom and a small kitchen. Inside Kasey Spencer’s office, the floor on three sides was piled high with programs for the forthcoming show.

“Have you seen my digital recorder?”

Kasey looked up from the pile of papers she was collating. “No, but I can leave this and help you look for it.”

Bree shook her head. “It’s okay. I probably took it up to the loft without thinking.” Her apartment was above the gallery. “I’ll check when I grab some lunch later.”

She turned toward the door that led to the main gallery, only to be halted by Kasey’s voice. “Since you’re here…”


“Rylan Bennet asked if you could spare him a few minutes,” her assistant said. “He’s in the promotions office.”

“That man spends more time here than all the other artists’ managers put together.” Bree was aware that her smile was slightly self-conscious. “He sure is dedicated.”

“Dedicated?” Kasey raised an eyebrow. “That’s a new name for it.”

Bree was tempted to ask the other woman what she meant, but it was fairly obvious, particularly since Kasey gave her a teasing look before returning to her task. So much for Bree’s speculation about whether the attraction between her and Rylan was real or just a pleasant daydream. Kasey’s words implied that her assistant had noticed it, which meant it existed outside of Bree’s imagination. The thought sent a pleasurable shiver down her spine.


The promotions office of the Wise Gal Gallery was a long, narrow room at the rear of the reception desk. Rylan Bennet didn’t know much about the art world, but he had soon learned that it was a luxury for visiting artists and their managers to be provided with an area of their own in which to work. He figured it was because this gallery was located in a former warehouse, where space wasn’t an issue.

Rylan seemed to be the only person involved in the prospective show who was interested in taking advantage of the hospitality provided by Bree Colton, the gallery owner. Most of the time, he had the office to himself. The situation suited him just fine, although he was aware of the curious glances directed his way by the gallery staff. They were obviously wondering what he found to do there all day, every day.

If he was going to be convincing in his role as a manager and promoter for a group of local artists, he clearly needed to work harder on his disguise. His initial goal had been to get through the door and establish contact with Bree. After all, she was the only reason he was here. But now that he had gotten to know her, he needed to maintain her trust.

Deceiving her didn’t feel comfortable to Rylan, but his old army buddy Blaine Colton had been resolute. He’d told Rylan that his kid cousin was in danger, and he needed someone he could count on to watch over her. While Blaine was in DC, getting his discharge finalized, his Uncle Calvin and Aunt Audrey, Bree’s parents, had contacted him.

A week ago, a gallery show at Wise Gal had been interrupted by someone throwing a brick through the full-length front window. Kendall, who was married to Decker Colton, another of Bree’s cousins, was hit in the face and seriously injured. Shaken by the incident, Bree admitted to her parents, and her brother, Trey, who was Bradford County’s sheriff, that she had been getting threatening emails. Instead of taking action, she had apparently been ignoring the problem, hoping it would go away.

Calvin and Audrey were going crazy with worry about their daughter, but according to Blaine, Bree had refused their requests to return home and stay holed up at their farm. In desperation, they had asked her cousin to find a bodyguard, someone he trusted to keep her safe. The only problem? Rylan, the person Blaine had selected to be her protector, was sworn to secrecy about his role. If Bree found out, she would point-blank refuse to let the situation continue.

Reluctantly, Rylan had agreed. Although he’d recently sold the private security consultancy he’d been running since he left the army, he had the skills and experience to watch over Bree. He also lived close to Roaring Springs. Add in the fact that he owed Blaine a few favors from their time together in Afghanistan…

The only minor difficulty had been his cover story. Fortunately, Bree’s mom had helped him out with that. Audrey Douglas Colton was an attractive African-American woman, whose love for her daughter and fighting spirit shone through in equal measures. The day after Rylan had expressed his doubts about his ability to blend into an artistic setting, Audrey had called him with a solution.

“Bree’s next show is called Spirit. It’s a celebration of African-American art. A friend of mine is a professor at the University of North Colorado School of Art and Design. She has a group of graduates who are looking for someone to promote their work.”

When Audrey outlined her plan for him to pose as the manager of the artists in question, Rylan had expressed his reservations. “I don’t want these people to get their hopes built up. I have nothing long term to offer them.”

“No one loses from this arrangement,” Audrey had assured him. “These young African-American artists will have their work displayed in a prestigious gallery. Wise Gal is becoming very well known.” There had been a note of pride in her voice. “All I ask of you is that you do your best to promote their art to a wider audience.”

Since he was planning on being in the gallery anyway, that seemed like a reasonable request. He would have time on his hands, so he may as well use it productively. Then Rylan met Bree…and reasonable became a distant memory.

Because, for the first time in his thirty-four years, a woman had taken his breath away. He’d seen her formal picture on the gallery’s website when he had done some research. In it, she appeared cool and quirky, with a distant expression and a bohemian dress sense. In reality, she was a ray of sunshine, with a huge smile that, despite a slight shyness in her manner, quickly became a throaty laugh.

One look at Bree’s flawless golden-brown skin and amber eyes had Rylan questioning everything he thought he knew about himself. And he tumbled deeper into enchantment each time he saw her. That block of concrete in which he’d encased his heart? It might not be as impenetrable as he’d always believed.

The problem? Even if Bree felt the same way—and he thought she might—he was lying to her about who he was.

“That’s quite a frown.” Rylan looked up from his laptop screen to find Bree leaning one shoulder against the door frame as she watched him. A slight smile curved her full lips. “Anything I can help you with?”

Since he’d been studying a floor plan of the gallery, checking the entrances and exits for weak points, he snapped the lid closed and got to his feet. In an attempt to be objective, he had speculated about the possibility of getting Bree to confide in him about the emails her parents had mentioned. If she did that, he reasoned, then he could legitimately offer her his protection.

Maybe that way he could get past the feeling he was a cheating, lying jerk.

He got straight to the point, not easy when all he wanted to do was gaze into the honeyed depths of her eyes. “Your mom mentioned the incident when a brick was thrown through the window.”

Bree already knew that he’d met her mother. One of Audrey’s many charitable causes was the cover for the inclusion of Rylan’s group of young artists in the show. The fact that Bree had accepted the situation without comment confirmed that her mom regularly involved her in similar activities.

Even so, he caught the shift in her expression, maybe because he was watching her so closely. Gone almost as soon as it had appeared, it was a flare that could have been annoyance or impatience.

“I should have guessed she wouldn’t be able to resist sharing that information.” She hunched a shoulder. “Actually, that’s unfair. It was a nasty incident.”

“Have the police arrested anyone?”

“No. My brother, Trey, is the sheriff. He’s been investigating, but so far he doesn’t have any leads.” Her face was troubled. “Our family has been having some problems lately.”

Blaine had alluded to this but hadn’t gone into detail. The focus of their conversation had been on what was happening with Bree. Rylan knew, of course, that Blaine’s older brother, Wyatt, had recently been investigated when the body of a young woman was found on his ranch. Things had gotten nasty when the press put a spin on the story, leading the townsfolk to believe that Wyatt was guilty and getting preferential treatment because he was a Colton and his cousin was the sheriff.

Rylan had heard that the case had been closed with all charges against Wyatt dropped. However, from the way Bree was talking, it sounded like they had problems that were about more than one family member.

“You think those issues could be linked to the attack on your gallery?” he asked.

She hesitated, and Rylan hoped she might be about to confide in him. Then she smiled. It was a little too bright, as though she could be trying hard to convince him, or maybe herself, that everything was okay. “I’m sure they’re not. And please don’t worry about the safety of the artists you represent. I’ve had the front window replaced with toughened glass, and the alarm system has been upgraded.”

The moment was lost, and Rylan bit back his frustration. Instead, he tried another approach. “I hear you’ve been working late every night.”

“You hear?” This time Bree’s smile was genuine. “Now, whoever could have told you that? Surely, Kasey, my super-discreet assistant, hasn’t been telling tales about me?”

He grinned. “Actually, I overheard her talking to the security guy. He was asking if the reason you were staying so late is because of the big event coming up. I guess that’s because he needs to know so he can ensure the place is safe during the show?”

“David?” Bree asked. “Yes, he’s very conscientious, but he doesn’t work just for me. He’s employed to provide security for several of the businesses in the Diamond. He also does maintenance work for us. He’s a busy guy.”

Rylan was a native Coloradan, but he was new to Roaring Springs. Nestled within the valley, the town, with its bustling downtown area, was surrounded by the mountains, forests and a large lake.

First settled in the late 1800s because of gold mining, it grew to be a tourist destination, then blossomed further a decade ago when the Roaring Springs Film Festival was created. Although it always had celebrity visitors, the town had become a must-see trip for A-listers and wealthy executives.

Rylan had learned that the former warehouse units on the edge of Second Street were just on the cusp of the trendy part of town. Like this gallery, the new companies were young and vibrant.

Restaurants, bars, nightclubs and technology firms formed the bulk of the businesses. The area was named after the central diamond-shaped space within, where tables and chairs spilled out from the bars, coffee shops, restaurants and the Yogurt Hut.

“I hope you’re taking care of yourself.” Rylan kept his voice light and teasing, trying to avoid showing that he actually did care. “Getting plenty of sleep. Eating proper meals.”

“I’m dyslexic.” Bree said it casually, but the sidelong look she gave him told Rylan his reaction was important. “By the time I’ve read a recipe, the ingredients have gone stale.”

“You need someone to cook for you.” He tried to remember the last time he’d felt this nervous. He seriously didn’t think he ever had.

Bree’s smile held a trace of shyness. “Well, if you’re offering…”

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