The Rancher’s Royal Bride (BBW Romance - Billionaire Brothers 4)

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The Rancher's Royal Bride (BBW Romance - Billionaire Brothers 4)

by

Jenn Roseton

Copyright © 2014 by Jenn Roseton

All rights reserved

No part of this publication may be copied, reproduced in any format, by any means, electronic or otherwise, without prior consent from the copyright owner and publisher of this book.

This is a work of fiction. All characters, names, places and events are the product of the author's imagination or used fictitiously.

 

This is a sexy contemporary romance novella.

Table of Contents

 

 

 

CHAPTER 1

 

Ellie looked up at the man standing in front of her. Short, dark brown hair. Steely brown eyes. A firm jaw. She reluctantly decided he could be called attractive, especially with his chiseled
cheekbones, if he didn’t have a taciturn expression on his face. His navy jeans and blue and white checked long-sleeved shirt with rugged brown boots suited his tough good looks.

“Logan Trask?” her uncle asked, assessing the stranger in one swift glance.

“Mark Sterling?” Logan Trask examined her uncle closely, appearing to take in his appearance.

Both men held up their IDs, scrutinizing the other’s photo and comparing it to the person in front of them.

Her uncle finally nodded. “Take good care of her.” He turned to Ellie and pressed a light kiss to her cheek. “Try not to worry about your father. The doctors said he’s doing well.”

Ellie bit her lip. “I know,” she murmured.

“Call me if you need anything.”

She nodded, knowing she probably wouldn’t. Her uncle was a very busy man, and she was still surprised he’d insisted on accompanying her to Wyoming. She was twenty-six years old, for heaven’s sake!

In fact, the whole situation was strange
.
A couple of days ago, she’d been busy packing for her vacation to Hawaii, with two of her girlfriends, when her father had turned up at her apartment, requesting she visit his friend’s ranch in Wyoming instead. When she’d protested, he’d pulled out the Dad card.

“Don’t argue with me about this, Ellie. I can’t explain what’s going on right now, but I’m concerned about your safety. I know you’ve been planning your trip to Hawaii and I’ll cover your cancellation fees. Just believe me when I say it’s necessary for you go to Wyoming instead.”

When she’d peppered him with questions, all he would tell her that it was connected with his job. Since her father worked for the Secret Service, she realized his concerns about her safety were serious.

During the flight, although she’d asked her uncle repeatedly what was going on, he too refused to tell her. He would only repeat over and over that her father wanted to keep her safe, and this was the best way he knew how.

And now here she was at a small airport in Wyoming, being delivered and picked up like a package!

Her father had always been over-protective, to the point where he’d insisted she learn self-defense as a teenager. They had lunch or dinner once per week, where he was always keen to hear her news - not that she usually had much to tell him. And if she ever - very occasionally - mentioned a new guy in her life, her father insisted on meeting him, even if she’d only started dating him.

“You can’t be too careful, Ellie,” he always said, his death-grip of a handshake and fierce Dad look in his eye usually scaring off any potential boyfriends.

In fact, she sometimes thought it was amazing he’d even allowed her to go college. His disapproval wouldn’t have stopped her, though. She’d wanted to have a career in the artistic field, and her current job as cover designer and illustrator for a small publishing company in Virginia kept her creative side reasonably satisfied.

So why was she following her father’s orders to cancel her vacation to Hawaii, disappoint her friends, stay on a stranger’s ranch for two weeks and tell no one her whereabouts?

Because last night her father had suffered a heart attack.

“Ready to go?” The stranger’s - she supposed she should think of him as Logan - voice intruded on her thoughts.

Ellie blinked, focusing on him. “I guess.”

“Bye, sweetheart.” Her uncle patted her on the shoulder, then turned to Logan. “Call me if there are any problems.”

“I will.” Logan nodded. He picked up her suitcase and started shepherding her out of the airport. “I’m parked out front.”

Ellie craned her neck to catch a last glimpse of her uncle, before allowing Logan to escort her to his vehicle.

She’d much rather spend the next two weeks by her father’s bedside than with a total stranger. Worry gnawed at her stomach. The heart attack had been sudden. When the hospital called, she’d immediately rushed to see her dad, but wasn’t permitted to see him. Her uncle had insisted on her following her father’s wishes and flying to Wyoming as arranged, but she wished she could have seen Dad before she left.

It had only been the two of them since she’d been a baby. What if he didn’t pull through?

Logan helped her clamber into his black SUV. She was glad she wore comfortable black pants that helped to conceal her curvy figure; it would have been so much more awkward climbing into this vehicle in a skirt.

After checking she wore her seat belt, Logan started the engine.

She frowned. “I’m perfectly capable of fastening my own seat belt.”

“I’ve been told to look after you.” He shrugged. “That includes making sure you’re buckled up.”

She barely refrained from rolling her eyes. Was it possible that this man would be even more over-protective than her father?

Ellie stared at the passing September scenery. Lush, green pasture. Big, blue sky dotted with white clouds. Cows and horses. Big boulders sitting in the middle of empty fields. She was suddenly pleased she’d brought her sketch book with her.
Wish I’d brought my paints as well.

“We’ll be there in about half an hour.” He glanced over at her for a second, before returning his attention to the road.

Her uncle escorting her to Wyoming had temporarily given her something else to think about, as had meeting the man she would spend the next two weeks with, but now her dad’s illness rushed to the forefront of her mind.

Twisting her fingers in the strap of her purse, she tried to calm her anxiety. He had the best medical care possible. The doctors said he was responding well to treatment. All she could do was wait, pray and follow his wishes. Once he was better, she’d make sure he told her exactly what was going on … if she could wait that long.

Maybe Logan knew more about this situation than she did. Casting him a speculative look, she wondered if she should ask him. His attention seemed totally focused on the highway.

“What?” He kept his gaze on the windscreen.

She hesitated. “Nothing.” Maybe she’d ask him later.

“Not long now.”

She nodded, and resumed looking out the window.

 

***

Two weeks babysitting. Great.
Exactly
what he needed.

He cast a covert look at the girl beside him. Strawberry blonde hair. Shoulder-length. Sky blue eyes. A dusting of freckles on her nose.

She looked around twenty-five or twenty-six. Innocent. And the curviest body he’d ever seen.

Not exactly his type.

And now he was stuck with her for two weeks. When all he wanted was to be left alone, not saddled with the responsibility of looking after someone else. Especially her.

***

“We’re here.” Logan’s gruff voice snapped her out of her thoughts.

Ellie looked around with interest as they drove through an open gate. Green grass and cows.
Lots
of black cows. A couple of large barns dotted the landscape. Logan parked outside a large, rambling farmhouse, painted white with navy blue trim.

“I’ll grab your bag.” He jumped out of the SUV and opened the trunk.

Ellie hopped out of the vehicle, glad he wasn’t there to see her slightly clumsy exit. She hitched her purse strap over her shoulder, just as he appeared, carrying her suitcase.

“Come on.” He jerked his head toward the house.

She trailed behind him, hoping he wasn’t going to be a grump for the next two weeks. On the drive from the airport, she’d decided to make the best of the situation, but it would be hard to look on the bright side if Logan acted like this the whole time she was here.

Maybe he doesn’t want you here. Maybe he doesn’t like curvy girls.

Well, she didn’t want to be here either.

He held the front door opened for her. Following him into the slightly shabby hall, she took note of her rustic surroundings.

“This is your room.” He ushered her into a sparsely furnished bedroom, dumping her bag on the floor. A single bed dominated the room, accompanied by an old, scratched nightstand and pine closet. Faded floral wallpaper graced the walls, while the carpet was a dusty worn-out blue.

Not exactly the moderately priced but sleekly decorated hotel room she’d been looking forward to in Hawaii.

He glanced at her when she didn’t say anything. Crossing over to the closet, he opened the doors. “There are some drawers on this side.” He pulled out one of the drawers. Wooden coat hangers dangled from the other side.

She nodded.

“And there’s a good view from this window.” He pushed up the white wooden window, the sweet smell of grass and hay entering the room. “See?”

“Thank you,” she murmured, taking a couple of steps closer to the window. It seemed as if he were trying to point out the best features of the small room. A cow mooed from the pasture close by, and she almost jumped at the loud noise. “I didn’t realize cows were so loud.”

“Yeah.” He smiled for a second, his face lightening. “They can be pretty noisy sometimes.”

Her pulse jumped at the almost boyish look on his face.

He looked around the room, his expression almost apologetic. “I haven’t done anything with most of the house since I moved in a year ago.” He shrugged. “I guess it’s not exactly what you’re used to.”

“Not exactly,” she replied cautiously. Her one bedroom apartment in Arlington, Virginia, was small and cozy, furnished with some decent furniture, a few eclectic choices she’d bought from thrift stores and a couple of her paintings she was particularly pleased with. But the whole effect suited the flow of her apartment, and her taste. At least
she
thought so. The best she could say for this bedroom was it looked clean. 

“Want some coffee?” He moved past her, his body inches from hers.

Reflexively, she sucked in her stomach. “Sure.”

He led the way down the hall to a large, old-fashioned kitchen. A big pine table stood in the center of the room. “Have a seat.”

She sat at the table, watching him turn on a modern coffee machine. Somehow, it seemed incongruous with its surroundings.

Taking down two cups from a wooden mug tree, he must have noticed the surprise on her face. “My brother Garrett said once I tried coffee from this machine I wouldn’t use my old percolator again.” He shrugged. “He was right.”

Ellie hid a smile at the slightly disgruntled expression on his face. The rest of the kitchen was tidy, but with dated appliances. The large refrigerator hummed in the background, adding a domestic note to the house.

Logan placed the mugs on the table. “Here you go.”

“Thanks.” She sipped the aromatic coffee, surprised at how delicious it tasted. So he could make coffee.
With the help of a machine.

“I might have to do a grocery run. I haven’t had time to go to the supermarket since your father contacted me two days ago.” He gestured at the kitchen. “I wasn’t exactly expecting - guests.”

She frowned. “What were you expecting?”

“Not you.” A flush of crimson stained his cheekbones. “Sorry,” he muttered.

She bit her lip. Used to
not
being the center of attention where guys were concerned, his honesty still hurt.

“You coming here was very last minute.”

“For me too,” she allowed, taking another sip of her coffee.

He took a long swallow, then settled back in the wooden chair. “Yeah.” After relaxing for a second, he snapped his attention back to her. “We better go over the rules. No leaving the ranch without me. And I need to know where you are at all times.”

She stared at him. “Really?”

“Yeah. Really.” He started to scowl, then seemed to try not to. “Your dad’s worried about you.”

“I know.” Her mouth drooped at the thought of her father hooked up to machines in hospital.

“I’m sorry he’s ill.” He did look genuinely sorry. “He’s a good man.”

She glanced at him, puzzled. “Dad said you were a friend of his, but I can’t remember him mentioning you.”

“We met a few years ago overseas.”

“In a professional capacity?” She looked at him inquiringly.

“Yeah.”

She wrinkled her brow. “You work for the government too?”

“Not anymore.” His fingers tightened around his mug. “I retired last year.”

He looked around thirty - that was young to be retired from anything. “So now you breed cattle?”

“Mm-hm.”

She decided to dig a little deeper. “So exactly how did you meet my father?”

He took his time answering. “Let’s just say he helped me out of a tight spot. And I owed him.”

“And now he’s called in the favor?”

“Yes.”

“But why am I here?” She was determined to find out exactly what was going on.

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