Bride Protector SEALBy: Elle James
Axel Svenson, or Swede, as he preferred to be called, flexed his hand before he stuck it out. He found the scars were less disconcerting than proffering his left hand to shake. “Nice to meet you, ma’am.”
“You can call me Allie. Ma’am makes me sound old.” Alyssa Patterson took the hand without flinching. “No offense, but I can’t say that I’m as thrilled to meet you. I really don’t need a bodyguard, despite what my brother says.”
“Yes, you do,” her brother, Hank ‘Montana’ Patterson, said.
His first day on the job with the Brotherhood Protectors and Swede’s first client didn’t want his services. It wasn’t exactly the way he’d pictured his initial assignment. From the way Montana had described the work, he’d expected to be allocated to a helpless rich person who needed someone to chauffeur, him or her, around. All he’d have to do was look big and tough. With the scar on the side of his face, he had no doubt he could intimidate the hell out of most people.
Instead of a rich socialite, Montana had tasked Swede with protecting his kid sister. And she wasn’t thrilled with the idea.
“If your sister doesn’t want a bodyguard, why force one on her?” Swede asked.
Allie’s eyes narrowed. “Wait, you’re taking my side?”
Swede shrugged. “You’re a grown-ass woman. If you don’t think you need a bodyguard, you shouldn’t have to accept one.”
Allie turned to her brother and flashed a smile. “I might like this guy after all.”
Sadie, Montana’s wife, laughed.
Montana shot a brief frown at Allie and Sadie, and turned to Swede. “After several suspicious events, Allie’s fiancé is concerned about her. And frankly, so am I.”
“I have too much to do between now and the wedding to have someone on my heels slowing me down,” Allie argued.
Montana gave her an “I’m the big brother” look. “You already agreed to Swede tagging along. Just shut up and let him.”
Allie crossed her arms over her chest. “I’m going to a fitting, having my nails done and shopping for lingerie for the wedding night. That’s when I’m not hauling hay, cleaning stalls and checking fences not only on the Bear Creek Ranch, but on the Double Diamond.” She gave Swede a look that sized him up and found him lacking. “What do you know about any of those activities?”
He shrugged. “Nothing.”
Allie rolled her eyes and turned back to Montana. “Let me guess, he’s never been on a ranch, and doesn’t know one end of a horse from another?”
Rather than allow himself to feel inadequate, Swede stiffened his back and straightened to his full six-feet-four inches. “I might not know my way around a ranch, but I’m good with a gun, I learn fast, I’m quick on my feet and highly observant.”
She opened her mouth.
Swede pressed a finger to her lips. “Let me demonstrate.” He gave her the same assessing stare she’d given him. “You came straight from the horse stalls you spoke of because you smell like manure, and you’re tracking it into the house. You didn’t take time to brush your hair this morning, likely because you had to clean the stalls and take care of the animals. Your hands are shaky, probably because you drink too much coffee. You haven’t slept well in days, if the circles under your eyes are any indication. The lack of sleep has everything to do with all of the things you mentioned, plus you’re worried your brother might be right and you might be in danger.” He crossed his arms over his chest, much like she had. “Did I miss anything?”
“Great. And he’s a smartass.” Allie glared at her brother.
Montana raised his hands. “Hey, don’t look at me. Take it up with your fiancé. He was the one who thought you needed protection. Maybe if you’d decided to marry one of the locals instead of a rich man who just bought a ranch in Montana because he could, you wouldn’t be in any more danger than getting thrown by a horse.”
“Do you hear yourself?” Allie asked. “You sound like our father.”
Montana scowled and his jaw tightened.