He’ll do anything to protect the woman he loves. Relentless – Brotherhood Protectors #EroticContemporary #BrotherhoodProtectors #TinaDonahueBooks #EroticSuspense
In the grayish dawn, a tall figure approached, shoulder-length hair flapping in the mild summer wind, the man’s powerful form silhouetted against the lightening sky, his face hidden in shadows.
He carried a rifle over one shoulder.
Nic’s fury morphed to dread at the coming battle, but she wouldn’t back down. “Hold it right there!” Her shout sounded thunderous in the otherwise calm day. “Another step and I’ll shoot off your balls.”
Halted, he raised his hands. “I’m not here to cause trouble, Ms. Strom.”
Patience and sincerity rang in his deep, rich voice, along with respect.
Her stomach fluttered in appreciation when it shouldn’t have. Victor’s men weren’t close to civilized. Calling her a bitch or barking racial obscenities was more their style. Confused, she nevertheless kept her finger on the trigger, prepared to fire. “Then go back the way you came. Don’t enter my property again.”
“I’m here to talk. To help.”
That made no sense. He couldn’t be from the Sheriff’s Department. Long ago, the law in this county proved they couldn’t have cared less about her problems.
Teeth bared, Shade edged closer to the stranger and crouched, ready to pounce.
Slowly, the man lowered his arms. “How about I put my rifle on the ground then you call off your dog?”
Sounded reasonable, but she was long past what most would consider normal trust. In the distance, trees, bushes, and too much darkness hid countless dangers. “How many men did you bring with you?”
“None. It’s just me, I swear. Trent asked me to come.”
Stunned, she could barely speak. “My foreman?”
“Yeah. He and I were tight on the reservation before I left.”
Trent was a Blackfoot, the same as her grandmother Kanti. That wasn’t something a man working for Victor would admit to. Nor would Victor deign to hire someone with that lineage or anyone less than what he considered a real American…unless this was a new trick. Her skin grew clammy. “Trent didn’t say anything to me.”
“He wasn’t sure you’d accept my help.”
“Like roaming around my pasture in the dark among newly dead cattle? If that’s the case, he’s right. Put your rifle on the ground.”
So far, so good. “Shade, back off.”
The dog maintained his threatening posture.
He whimpered and inched away.
Unarmed, the man straightened, hands at his side, palms facing her.
Curious, she lifted the lantern and approached, the light bathing him.
Her heart turned over.
She couldn’t recall the last time she’d seen a more beautiful man, his age early thirties or so. Straight black hair and dark-brown eyes complemented his coppery skin and strong features. The scar on his left cheek enhanced his masculinity. Although lean, he owned a powerful form, a dark T-shirt and jeans hugging his firm muscles. Her pussy creamed, and there wasn’t a damn thing she could do about it. “Besides being Trent’s friend, who are you exactly?”
“Roy Ghost. I prefer Ghost to Roy.” He offered his hand.
“Quiet.” She put the lantern on the ground then slid her fingers across Ghost’s dry, warm palm, calloused from hard work.
Her legs weakened.
He gripped her hand firmly but gently, his behavior reassuring rather than threatening. “Can I call you Nic?”
Laughter bubbled to her throat at their civility, as if they’d just met in a bar and were getting to know each other, rather than standing in a field littered with dead cows. Reality killed her amusement. She brought back her hand and retrieved the lantern. “Trent told you about Victor?”
“Some. I’d like the full details.”
Having suffered endless humiliation and worry over the years, plus losing her grandfather because of that maniac, wasn’t something she wanted to relive. “The latest facts are over there.” She inclined her head to the fallen cows. “You saw the carcasses, right?”
“Not closely. Carrying a lantern or flashlight gives away one’s position.”
Meaning hers, making her a target for whoever might be out there, watching and waiting. For some reason, she felt compelled to explain. “I was simply going about my chores as I do every morning. I wasn’t trying to attract gunfire.”
“Of course not. Nor should you have to worry about such things and won’t from now on.”
She wasn’t following. “Trent offered you a job as a ranch hand?”
“No. I work for Brotherhood Protectors. Hank Patterson, a retired SEAL, established the ex-military group. We protect those who need our help.”
The scar on his cheek appeared deadlier than before. “You were in the service?”
“Army Rangers, specifically a sniper.”
His rifle glinted in the available light. She was a good shot, but next to what he could do… No wonder her threat hadn’t alarmed him. “I can’t pay for protection. I was barely able to save the ranch from foreclosure. Do you know about that?”
“Not the particulars, though I did catch your performances on This Country Has Guts!” His grin lit up his handsome features, making him more luscious. “Those motorcycle tricks were outstanding. You deserved to win the million.”
Her smile happened before she could stop it. “Thanks. Bryce taught me.”
“My grandfather.” She lowered her rifle, realizing she’d still had it pointed at him, and hung the weapon over her shoulder. “He was a Hollywood stuntman before retiring here. What he called paradise until it turned into a never-ending nightmare.” Pain swept through her, stealing her breath.
Ghost stepped closer, his mouth turned down. “You mean the trouble Victor’s caused?”
“Trouble?” She shook from renewed outrage. “Try murder. He killed my grandfather. I don’t know how he messed with Bryce’s cycle, but he did. I called in the sheriff, but he claimed what happened was an accident. Bryce supposedly hit something on the range, and, given his speed, he flew off the cycle and broke his neck. The coroner accepted that as fact without any investigation. Hell, I had to fight for an autopsy, and, even then, they only did the bare minimum. They don’t call this Victor County for nothing. Victor has every damn authority in his pocket. After the alleged accident, I’m sure he wasn’t expecting me to keep this place up and running, which is why he’s now killing my cattle.” Hatred for him raced through her, tightening her shoulders. “You know what? Screw him. I’m not taking this another minute.” She strode across the pasture.
“Whoa.” Ghost caught her arm. “Where are you going?”
“To have this out with him once and for all. I’m tired of playing games. He wants a fight then I’ll give him one he’ll never forget.” She yanked her arm.
He held tight. “That’s not wise.”
“I don’t give a goddamn. Let. Go.”
“Sorry, but no.” He ran his thumb over her arm. “I don’t want you getting hurt.”
“It’s my choice.”
“That you’ll regret. If you’re dead next, who’s going to run this ranch? From what Trent told me, you support yourself, your mother, and grandmother. What will they do if you’re gone?”
Nic wanted to scream at him for mansplaining the obvious, but her exasperation evaporated into bone-deep weariness. Struggling for breath, she lowered her face. “I don’t know how much more of this I can take.”
“You shouldn’t have to endure anything.” He released her but eased closer, the wind delivering his subtle aquatic scent, clean and masculine.
Her pulse ticked up. She stepped back to keep from throwing her arms around his shoulders, begging him to hold her. For too long, she’d had to be strong and wanted only a moment to give into weakness, to have someone else take the burden. Wasn’t going to happen. She was better than that. If nothing else, her mother had taught her to survive. “I know I shouldn’t have to put up with this crap, but my feelings won’t change what’s happening.”
“Then let’s find something that will.”