Chapter One

"Alright guys. New case." Nate said coming into the office. "Hardison." He tossed him a disk drive. "Run it. This is Madison. She has been working for Child Protective services for five years."

"Graduated Georgetown at 20 years old." Hardison continued. "Smart cookie. Double degree in social work and pre medical. She has the highest success rate and closing rate for her cases in the state. Real public servant."

"Two years ago," Nate took over. "She closed a case with a man that had already killed one of his children and framed it up as an accident. His other son came into the hospital numerous times with an accelerating pattern of violence. She separated the child from the father and convinced him to testify against his father. Unfortunately Daddy knew the judge."

"And got a slap on the wrist." Eliot muttered.

"18 months on a single neglect charge." Nate confirmed. "Now it seems like he's after her for turning his son against him. Two attempts so far. One car bomb and one hitter."

"Protecting people isn't what we normally do." Parker complained.

"Well it's a change. Besides, prove that this guy is after her, hired a hit man and he'll be back in jail for attempted murder and conspiracy to murder. Get a good public service worker back on the streets and doing what she does best."

Eliot leaned back, looking at the photograph on the screen. She was a pretty girl. She had long dark hair that fell in natural curls down her shoulders and back. Her skin had a mediterranean glow about it making her bright green eyes stand out. "She is hot." He put in. Hardison made an "Um hum" noise.

Parker looked down at the papers in front of her. "Her last name is Ford."

Silence filled the room for a moment. "It's his niece." Sophie muttered under her breath. Nate stood starring at the two men angrily.

Parker looked around confused. "She is hot…What?"

Nate knocked on the door of the fifth floor apartment. "Maddy it's Uncle Nate. Open up."

Eliot leaned against the wall. "I can't believe this. If Hardison is putting up camera's why do I have to baby sit this chick?"

Nate rolled his eyes. "Because if someone attacks her most likely we won't get to her in time. We've been over this Eliot. Calm down. Maddy is a fun person to be around. Amazing cook."

"Oh yeah. Public servant. I'll have her doing tequila shots off a bar in no time." Eliot sarcastically cut in.

Nate glared at him. "You will do nothing of the sort. Listen to me Eliot. My niece…off limits. No flirting, no teasing, and definitely not tequila shots."

"I got it. I got it." Eliot complained.

Maddy opened the door peeking outside. "Come on in." She opened the door all the way. "What's up?"

"Wanna offer us a drink?" Nate asked. "Or a hug?" Maddy smiled and hugged him. Eliot took a moment to take in the girl. She had long legs clad in work out shorts. A white tank top covered her skinny body. Her picture just plain didn't do her justice.

"You know I don't drink or keep it in the house." Maddy said, turning to Eliot. "Maddy." She introduced herself. "You're a friend of Uncle Nate's?"

Eliot shrugged. "Yeah I guess."

He was cut off by Maddy hugging him. "Good to meet you! Uncle Nate doesn't really have too many friends." She smiled and patted him on the back. He laughed a little to himself at the contrast between the friendly girl and her brooding uncle.

"Maddy!" Nate scowled. "Back to business please. You remember what we talked about? About sorting this out for you? Well Elliot and some other friends of mine are going to help you out on that."

"I remember telling you to bugger off about it." Maddy said, crossing her arms. "I have it under control." She walked over to her desk and pulled out a file. "Phone calls from work, home phone and cell. Text messages and email's for the last two months…since he got out of prison." She watched as he and Eliot looked over the file. "I cross checked them all with offender databases. No red flags."

"What about face to face meetings?" Eliot asked.

Maddy shrugged and went into the kitchen, pouring herself a glass of water. "That was a bit harder. He hit me with a harassment restraint so I couldn't tail him myself. Plus with work hours and my case load, well it was tricky. I got a few friends to check it out, called in a few favors but no one saw anything."

Eliot looked at her, mildly impressed that such a small girl had taken on so much. "Nice." He told her. "But your uncle is right. You could use some extra help digging up the dirty bastard." She looked at him with a cocked eyebrow. "I have a thing against child abusers and people who go after innocent pretty girls."

She laughed, a musical sound that made the curls around her shake and quiver. Nate muttered something about flirting under his breath. "Innocent? Uncle what have you been telling him?"

"The truth." Nate flipped the file closed. "You did a good job honey. But I can help you out. Eliot here is going to stay with you and keep an eye out."

"Uncle I really don't…"

"Listen to me…" He lead her a little farther away and held her hands tightly in his. "You are the last family I have and I am not going to let you get killed too. Just let me do this for you. Let me help. No one else in this family needs to die."

She looked up at him with a caving expression. "Just this once." She murmured. "And I don't like it."

"Got it."

She stopped him, raising a slender finger. "And I get to do all of the things I normally get or have to do."

Nate nodded. "As long as Eliot stays with you at all times." She started to argue but he raised his finger. "Otherwise you're going to be followed and we are going to do everything without you knowing."

She sighed. Elliot considered. Maybe in this family need for control with hereditary. "Alright." She glanced over at the long haired man. His arms were crossed and he averted his eyes respectfully.

Nate leaned over and gave her a kiss on the cheek. "This is the right move Maddy. I promise. This will all be over in a week. I'm going to go and get this started…Eliot." The other man nodded sternly. "Don't let her out of your sight."

"You got it." Eliot replied.

Maddy lead him to the door. "No drinking." She told him as she closed it. She sighed and turned to Elliot giving him a strange look. "Ten minutes for him to get out of the door and then you can take off." She told him.

Eliot took a step forward, standing a breath away from her. He looked deep into her green eyes. His blue ones were so warm but hard at the same time. He had a stern face but at the same time there was a soft aspect to him. She heard the lock click as he starred at her, locking them both inside. "Sorry sweetheart. I'm not going anywhere." She smiled a little and blushed a pretty pink, looking down. "Aren't you scared I'm the next hit man?"

"Nah. You're my uncle's friend." She turned and walked back farther into the apartment. "Besides, if you were going to kill me you wouldn't have been checking out my ass just now."

"Cute." Eliot muttered under her breath. "I'm going to check the perimeter. Anything that you want to hide?" He scoffed at the thought. While this girl was Nate's niece and had done a good job with her research there was no doubt that this girl was as vanilla as they came. The orchids in the window and the tattoo of the care bear heart peeking out from the waist band on her shorts said that.

Maddy sat at her desk and crossed her legs, looking at the man. "I already checked everything tonight but you can knock yourself out. I think that I can survive the embarrassment." Eliot nodded and went to check the windows. She smiled as she looked at him. He was a good looking man. His plaid button up shirt was half open, sleeves rolled up over his strong forearms. She could see his arm muscles moving under the fabric as he opened the window and checked. She glanced down, not wanting to risk being caught starring, and started to finish up the case reports she was working on. She had to say that he did a really throw job. It took him nearly a half hour to check the 600 square foot apartment and move things to his liking. She heard him curse a few times as he moved her bed away from the window and her dresser to cover the glass.

She smiled and got up, taking tortilla shells, cheese and peppers out of the refrigerator. "Elliot, have you eaten?" She called.

His head, covered with long sandy hair, flowed out the door. "No."

She smiled to herself. "Would you like some dinner? I'm going to make enchilada's."

Eliot paused before stepping out of the bedroom. He ran his hand through his hair as he looked at the vegetables and the chicken on the counter. His mouth watered at the thought of a home cooked meal that he didn't have to cook and that wouldn't be scoffed down before he could get a plate by Parker and Hartisan. "I could eat." He told her.

Her smile was bright as she pulled out a knife. He sat down on a bar stool and watched as she chopped the vegetables quickly and accurately. She had already shredded the chicken and seasoned it. The smell of the spices was already amazing and he felt his stomach growl.

Putting all of the peppers, onions, chicken and cheese into the tortillas Maddy loaded them into a pan. She poured green chili sauce over the top of them. She stuck them into the oven and gave him a glorious smile, one he felt that he would grow to be quite fond of. "Half an hour and you'll have a full stomach." She assured him.

Eliot grinned. "Where did you learn to cook?" He asked.

Maddy poured him a glass of grape juice and sparkling water. "My mom taught me. She was a cook. When she got sick I had to take care of my dad. You know; cooking, cleaning, doing laundry."

"How old were you?"

She shrugged. "Seven I think." She said pouring a glass for herself. Eliot quirked his eyebrow. So young…a baby really. Why would she have to do something like that? "Anyway," She cut off his line of thought. "What is it that you do? Besides protect innocent, pretty girls."

He found himself laughing. "I dunno…I work with your uncle. You know Insurance."

Maddy grinned again, knowingly this time. She was a smiling sort of girl. You had to be when you worked in child protective services. "Insurance? You don't look like much of an insurance man."

Eliot snickered a bit trying to overcome the unusual guilt that rose in his stomach from lying. "Well I'm sure you'll find that I'm a man of many talents."

Maddy spun the glass in her hand, looking down over her fringed bangs. "I'm sure that you are. But I'm also sure that insurance investigator isn't one of them." She sighed at him. "You're lying. One: Insurance guys do not body guard. If he was as serious as Uncle Nate seems he would have brought in a professional. Two: your eyes are shifting so you're lying to me. Three: I know Uncle Nate quit the insurance business after my cousin died." She looked at his face as he considered. "Tell me anything. It doesn't have to be important."

"Well," Eliot considered. "I'm a good fighter. I guess that's why your uncle wanted me on your six."

Maddy smirked at the tell. "You're ex military." She put in, pleased with his taken back expression. "On my six? And the stance; arms wrapped around you, legs split but weight centered."

"You're an observant little thing aren't you?" Eliot finally recovered. "Yeah, ex Special Forces." He told her. He felt odd telling her the truth but it came out easily. "Your turn darlin'. Why no alcohol in the house?"

She tilted her head to the side and pursed her lips. "My dad was an alcoholic…so was his dad and his father before him. It's a line that I don't think is worth testing." She looked up at him. "My Uncle isn't exactly sober. Besides, I have seen enough drunks on the job. People use it as an excuse but anything that makes you not in control of yourself is something I want no part in."

Eliot watched her face. There was defiantly more to this story than she was telling, but he wasn't going to push it. She had been honest after all and so had he…for possibly the first time with a women. Besides, he liked the answer. It reminded him of something that he would say.

"I know what my uncle has been up to." Maddy put in. She nodded over to her desk, stacked high with well organized papers. "I'm a master of research. It's my thing. So when Uncle Nate donated a massive amount of money to the children's hospital, bought the pent house and the electronic sports car I knew. For my part I like the whole Robin Hood thing he has going on." She shrugged. "And remember all of those safe houses Nate takes people too?" Eliot nodded. "Well, it's not five star but this is it."

Again Eliot was finding that he like this girl.

Eliot woke the next morning to the sound of cereal being poured into a bowl. His stomach was still pleasantly full. He looked over the side of the sofa to see Maddy eating some, wearing another pair of work out shorts and an oversized t-shirt. Early bird, perfect. He got up and walked over to her. "When do you have to be at work?" He asked her.

"Two hours." She told him.

"Perfect. Come on, we're going for a run. You think you can keep up?" He asked.

Maddy considered. "I can try."

By the third mile she was catching her breath. "Why are we doing this?" She asked him.

Eliot smiled. "Well, it's easier for me to protect you if you can protect yourself."

Maddy sat up and pushed hair out of her face. "Well, that actually makes a lot of sense." She smiled. "Come on. I can take it. Try and keep up."

Eliot laughed as she took off. "Pace yourself baby." He called out, running after her. "Use your arms. Good girl."

Eliot went with her to work, where she picked up her files and they took off again in her outdated ford pickup. They went to several homes, interviewing, talking to neighbors, teachers and hospitals. People spilled their guts to her without a second thought. He watched, riveted. She was better than Sophie in some ways. Small touches, leaning into the person and developing an intimate experience went a long way with her. She had an honest face and the way she said things made people feel comfortable. If this girl got screwed she could be just as, if not more dangerous than Nate.

He glanced behind them as they drove home. "That black sedan look formillar to you?" He asked apprehensively.

Maddy glanced into her rear view mirror. "It was in the parking lot at the office." She thought out loud.

"And around the corner at the last house we went to." He muttered under his breath, wishing that he had insisted on driving.

Maddy bit her lip. "And at the hospital."

"How do you remember that?" He asked her.

Maddy tapped her temple. "Eidetic memory."

Eliot cursed under his breath, pushing the ear piece into his ear farther as if that might make it work faster or better. "Nate we have a tail."

"Ear pieces? Really? That's so cute." Maddy grimaced hoping that some of what they had said hadn't been heard.

"Lose them." Came Nate's voice.

Eliot gritted his teeth. "I'm not driving."

Maddy looked over at him. "Want me to lose them?" She asked a slight smirk on her face.

Eliot glanced over, ignoring Nate's annoyed voice about letting her drive. "Can you do that?"

Not more than half a second later he learned that she could. Taking a sharp turn into an alley they watched as the black sedan passed, unable to turn. Maddy smirked to herself and threw the truck into reverse, coming out behind them and nearly hitting a biker. She stepped on the gas and sped off after them.

"What are you doing?" Eliot protested. Despite how normal she seemed and lived her life, this girl definitely had a bit of her uncle in her.

Maddy didn't take her eyes off the road. "Trying to find out who is driving. No chance in hell George Urwin drives that nice of a car."

Eliot considered, still shocked at the balls on this girl. "Give me the wheel. Get into the back. And keep your head down." The idea of her having her head blown off was nauseating. She was a pretty girl for one, and second Nate would kill him.

Maddy unbuckled her seat belt and maneuvered around him as they switched seats. Luckily the suburbs didn't have much traffic so the most they hit was a curb and some house wives well manicured lawn. She switched from the front to the back seat than to the passengers.

"You're a bit crazy you know that?" Eliot told her as he turned another corner to follow the car.

"Where did they go?" Maddy asked. Eliot stopped the car and looked around. Sure enough the car had disappeared. "They must have had turbo on that thing…or pulled into a garage." She looked at him expectantly.

Eliot could tell that she wanted to check it out but a whole house was more than even he could take. Plus Nate's voice was yelling at him to get her out of there; not to let her manipulate him. "You know the neighborhood we're in?"

"Yeah," Maddy looked around, noting the street sign in her mind. "Wait we can't leave! What if they follow us back?"

"I'll keep my eyes open." He told her sternly.


"Don't you argue with me! You may be Nate's niece but I will tie you up and toss you in this truck bed." He snickered to himself at the thought. It continued even as Nate muttered that he better not even think about jumping in that truck bed with her. "We'll get back up but with back up and reckon."

She tossed her back into the seat with a huff. "Try throwing me in the back of that truck; see what happens." She muttered under her breath.

"Oh I could tie you up and throw you back there." Eliot told her. "And you'd never get out." He put the car in gear and started driving home. "Hey what are you doing!"

Maddy had reached over and was pulling the ear bud out. He tried to snatch it back. "Eye's on the road sparky." She told him. "You crash my car, you buy me a new one." She put the ear bud in. "Hey there Uncle Nate. No, no, no…my turn to talk. I want in…on all of this. Let me talk. I want in on every aspect of this crap. It's my life we are talking about here. If not then you all can just do your own thing and I'll do mine. Starting with sending your little enforcer here home. Then coming back here and checking each of these houses on my own." She paused and listened for a moment. Eliot gritted his teeth. Little enforcer? He'd show her. Even if Nate said no there was no way he was taking off. Her dinners were too good. "Oh and I want one of these nifty little ear buds. They're really comfortable." She took it out without waiting for a reply.

Eliot put it back in, glancing over at her. "Feel better?" He asked.

She let out a big breath and grinned, snickering a little. "Much." She rubbed her hands together. "So what do you want for dinner? I'm thinking curry?"

Eliot looked at her like she had lost it. "You know you're lucky you're so damn cute. Cause you are buckets of crazy."