Her Secret Protector(4)

By: Roxanne Snopek



She went back to her desk and changed her search parameters to “internet security expert Montana.” Some of the same links appeared, but there was one new one.

Ethan Nash Cyber-Security.

Something twigged. She’d heard that name before, but where? In what context?

She clicked on the website. There was very little information, no photo of the man, just a home page listing his credentials and another with endorsements from satisfied customers. Apparently, he’d consulted for numerous Fortune 500 companies, as well as government agencies, before retiring to the private sector.

Why did that name ring a bell?

“Let’s see what they say about you, Mr. Ethan Nash,” she murmured.

The testimonials were impressive.

“Discreet,” said one.

“Well worth his fee,” said another.

“Saved my business.”

“Protected my customers after an attack by a disgruntled employee.”

“Found areas of vulnerability I wasn’t even aware of.”

“Helped me understand the issue so I can prevent similar problems in the future.”

And the accolades kept coming.

Authoritative but respectful. Friendly. Professional. Knowledgeable without being condescending. Understanding. Friendly. Trustworthy. Friendly.

It seemed this Ethan Nash was more than competent; he was somewhere between Superman, Wolfman and Mr. Darcy.

And don’t forget, friendly.

High praise, if it was true.

But if she had heard the name before, it was not in such a positive connection.

She went back to the search engine and typed in Ethan Nash Cherry Lake.

And there it was. Of course.

There was an Ethan Nash in Cherry Lake. According to the old real estate listing that popped up, he’d moved to the area a few years ago, after purchasing the old Lewis homestead up on Mission Range Road.

She sat back in her chair as the memories clicked into place. Surely this wasn’t the same man.

Only a few people had met him and friendly was not the word they used to describe him.

Entitled. Rich. Reclusive. Rude.

That was the Ethan Nash of Cherry Lake.

He sounded like a different man entirely.

She checked the address of the real estate listing against the address on his website.

Nope. One and the same.

Now what?

She cringed at the thought of letting some mysterious stranger see these photos.

Then again, she thought, maybe there was more to him than what she’d heard. And if he was reclusive and unpopular, so much the better, given the… delicacy… of the situation. His opinion meant nothing to her. She’d be able to stay completely business-like. Impersonal. No need for embarrassment.

Yes, he would be her safest bet to address this disaster.

She only hoped she could afford him.

“Dear Mr. Nash,” she typed in an email message. “I am in urgent need of someone with your expertise to address a security breach in my business website. Please direct me as to how to proceed. Yours truly, Carrie Logan.”

Then she sat back and prayed for his response.





Chapter Two








“Car ride, boys.” Ethan Nash opened his front door and slapped his hands on his thighs.

Three Belgian Malinois dogs bounded over the polished slate of his entry way like hairy, slavering, hopped-up gazelles and crashed to a stop at his feet. Car ride and treats. Their three favorite words.

“What say we go to town, huh?”

He was meeting a potential new client later in the afternoon and it was best if the dogs worked off some of their ferocious energy before he had to work.

Jaws gaped, tongues lolled, and a small whine came from Gun, his youngest and greenest dog. They quivered as if they hadn’t been outside for days.

Which was not true. He spent hours with them, training, exercising and playing. But they were social creatures and let’s face it, he was just one man.

He put the boys in the back of the Land Rover and pulled out of the yard, reminding himself that if he ever wanted to be accepted into the community, he had to keep showing up. It was a nice place. He’d feel at home here, eventually.

Unfortunately, when he first arrived four years ago, he’d been seeking an idealized, romanticized version of small town life, a safe place where people smiled at and cared for and brought out the best in each other. A kind of Mayberry, with picket fences to go with his rose-colored glasses.

Anything to wash the taste of New York from his palate.

In reality, Cherry Lake was full of people just as flawed and ordinary as any other place.

Some of it was his fault, he acknowledged. At the time, he hadn’t exactly wanted to parade himself around town. He didn’t enjoy his own company, let alone that of others. He needed time to lick his wounds, in private.

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