Her Secret Protector(9)

By: Roxanne Snopek



The animals circled around to flank him again. He must have given a subtle hand gesture because all three suddenly sank to their haunches.

She sucked in a deep breath. “Still stuck on the ravening wolf thing, I guess.”

He nodded once. “My apologies. They’re very friendly, I assure you.”

Carrie was not assured.

He gestured to each of the dogs in turn.

“Ashur. Mars. Gun.” As he said their names, each of them held up a paw.

Oh, she thought, putting a hand to her throat.

“Polite ravening wolves, then.”

The man cracked a brief smile. “Go on.”

On shaky legs, she approached and tentatively touched each paw.

“P-pleased to meet you, Ashur. Mars. Gun.”

The dogs wagged and wiggled like puppies but stayed seated, aiming their big, white, toothy grins at her, and despite herself, she was charmed.

“Good boys.”

Carrie straightened up to find him standing right next to her, close enough that she could see that his deep dark eyes were more espresso than black, and that they were bracketed by faint lines.

“Ethan Nash. And you’re Carrie Logan. Welcome.”

Embers glowed in the depths of those dark eyes, warming her, smiling at her, though his face remained impassive. She felt the rumble of his voice resonate in her breastbone, like the sound of a drum calling over still water.

“Thank you,” she said faintly.

“We’ll talk in my office,” he said, putting a hand on her elbow and guiding her up the stone steps to the dim interior of his castle.

The cap sleeve top she’d chosen that morning meant that his fingers were on her bare skin, and she felt his touch sear through her skin, down to the bone. An outsider, a recluse, suspicious, mysterious.

And charming as all get out.

Bluebeard, she thought as she walked inside on numb legs. Maybe she was too stupid to live, after all.





Chapter Three








Ethan shooed the dogs around the corner to their beds in the great room, and led Carrie to his office. It was only a few steps from the front door, but he could feel the hesitance in her steps.

Great. Another woman who was afraid of him.

The tilt of her chin caught his attention, though, making him think twice. Her shoulders were tight and she held that bag as if it was a spare parachute, but she kept her head high.

“I’m going to make us some coffee,” he said, walking down the short hallway to the kitchen. “Would you like to dial nine-one while you wait? You can hold your finger over the last one until you’re safely off the property again, if it would make you feel better.”

“Oh,” she said, blinking. “I’m not worried. I’ve got a pearl-handled 9mm in my secret pocket.”

That jolted a laugh from him. “Right.”

So it wasn’t fear he was sensing, then. He watched her surreptitiously while he put the coffee on, enjoying the interest she’d piqued in him.

“I could have a gun,” she said with a frown. “You don’t know me.”

He didn’t, but he wouldn’t mind changing that. Shiny hair, smooth skin, toned muscles touched lightly by the sun. There was a lot to interest a man.

Right, he thought. A sweet thing like this no doubt had a pleasant-faced, mild-mannered boyfriend or husband in the background somewhere.

Or maybe not. Few women used the missus title anymore and she wasn’t wearing a ring, but if anyone looked like she ought to be married, it was this woman. She had Good Girl written all over her.

“Is this a typical start to your business meetings?” she asked, glancing around herself. “Dogs? Kitchen? Coffee? Terror?”

“No,” he said. “But you’re not my typical client. And you’re not terrified. Of me or my dogs.”

She sniffed and quirked a full, pink lip.

“What kind of clients do you usually see?”

He paused, surprised by the question.

Once upon a time, his work had involved not just creating and implementing new security programs, but neutralizing cyber-attacks on multi-million dollar corporations, with the occasional homeland security consult thrown in, to keep things interesting.

Now, out of sheer boredom, and on a much smaller scale, he continued to offer that vaguest of services: security. As if such a thing could be bought and paid for.

But he’d rarely met clients in person. Being approached by an individual, a civilian, a small business owner, a woman, this was all new.

Intriguing.

“Billionaires searching for missing cufflinks,” he said. “Starlets and sex tapes. That sort of thing.”

She raised her eyebrows but didn’t respond. Instead, she crossed her arms and sucked in a breath. She’d done that a few times, he noted. And each time, it drew his attention to the smooth skin of her throat and the collarbones that were all that was visible above the neckline of her shirt.

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