Hot SEAL, Decoy Bride
A former Navy SEAL is teamed with a feisty ex-Marine to provide protection for a Greek tycoon’s daughter to make sure the bride gets safely to her destination wedding…
Former Navy SEAL, Trigger Matthews, now a special operator with Justin Ballard’s Black Knight Security in New Orleans, is teamed with a feisty ex-Marine as part of the protection detail for a Greek tycoon’s spoiled daughter. The prickly woman proves to be a challenge he’s eager to explore.
Due to her uncanny resemblance to their client’s daughter, Cassandra Locke is tasked with being a “decoy bride”, a job that sees her going through some matrimonial hoops while fighting her growing attraction for her partner for this operation. Together, they create diversions to make sure the real bride has a chance to prepare for her coming nuptials.
Both loners, and unaware of the fact that they are indeed lonely, Trigger and Cass find out they have many more qualities in common, including an inability to stay away from each other. As the real bride’s day draws closer, they learn that she’s more than a girl born with a silver spoon in her mouth and find unexpected friendships along the way.
When danger draws nearer, they must trust each other’s strengths to get them through it.
Read an Excerpt
Trigger Matthews parked his SUV on a driveway that sparkled in the sunlight like someone’s kid had tossed glitter on the cement while it was drying. Stepping out of the vehicle, he stared down at the drive that ran from the street in front of the property to the garage behind the house and realized mica chips had been embedded along with tiny pink and gray pebbles to make it look like something out of a fairytale. He shook his head at the thought of someone having so much money they could toss it away at something so frivolous.
He’d driven past the house the first time because he’d been busy rubbernecking, staring at the houses that looked like something out a Civil War era movie—big white homes with gleaming white columns. Impossibly, this mansion was even more ornate than the rest along the long well-manicured street—with an iron balustrade surrounding a balcony that stretched across the front of the second floor of the house, with arched French doors at the center—perfect for nothing, seeing as the house faced the street. Who’d want to walk out to enjoy the early morning air in a bathrobe or his skivvies when every neighbor and delivery man would see you?
Pulling on his cuffs to bring them down below the edge of his suit jacket, he fought the need to pull at his collar, too. This gig required that he dress the part of a high-end bodyguard—dark suit, conservative tie, sunglasses, expensive leather shoes. When Justin Ballard, the owner of Black Knight Security had told him to “dress the part”, he’d wondered at his phrasing. Trigger still didn’t know exactly what the job entailed, but the advance he’d been given to update his wardrobe had been enough he wasn’t complaining about the lack of pertinent details. Given the fact he’d spent ten years in the Navy, he didn’t have much of a civilian wardrobe, beyond jeans and workout gear. All the clothing he’d purchased was now inside two cases in his trunk, also per Justin’s instructions.
He rubbed his jaw, thinking maybe he should have shaved off his beard, but he’d worn it for so long, he figured the skin beneath it would be pale and look strange. The previous night, he’d trimmed it close. Too late to fix it now.
Pressing the key fob to lock his SUV, he followed the stucco wall topped with wrought iron embellishments that cut off the view of the garage from the grounds to an iron gate. There he entered a code on a security pad, heard the lock click, and pushed through the gate. A gardener worked nearby, bent over a large rose bush. The man was too well built to be just a gardener. No doubt, he had a weapon nearby in case anyone entered who didn’t look like he belonged.
Inside, more of the glittered pavement led to a courtyard bordered by a large pool with a rock waterfall and seating area. To the left was the guesthouse—his destination.
Another set of French doors opened, and Justin Ballard stepped outside. “You’re early.”
He was exactly five minutes early. “Wanted to make sure I was here on time for the brief.”
“Well, we’re all here, except for our decoy.”
Trigger raised a brow.
Justin shook his head. “The client is pulling out all the stops. Wants someone to play the bride.” His gaze narrowed on Trigger’s face. “Right, you haven’t been read in. No worries.”
The sound of footsteps—or rather sharp taps—sounded behind him. Trigger turned to see a woman striding their way. He drew in a sharp breath.
From her head to her toes, she was stunning—long blonde hair, worn straight that looked as soft as silk and shone like sunlight, shimmied around her shoulders as she moved; slender body with large breasts, which he figured couldn’t be real they were so perfect and high; legs that went for miles… She wore a sundress in a sherbet rainbow of pastel colors that bared her shoulders to the bright New Orleans sun and pink, three-inch high-heeled sandals with fuzzy pom-poms across the top. Yes, she looked silly and good enough to eat, all at the same time.
However, her expression was at odds with her confectionary-sweet outfit. A scowl lowered her eyebrows, and her mouth was twisted into a snarl.
Her gaze shot to Justin. “Do you have any idea what I’ve been through today?” She started soft, but her voice rose toward the end.
Trigger glanced at Justin who was pursing his lips as though he was trying not to laugh. “Now, Cassie, what woman doesn’t enjoy a spa day?”
“One who doesn’t want her pubic hairs waxed!”
Trigger cleared his throat, not quite sure how to respond.
The blonde thrust out her hands. “And she insisted on fake-fucking nails. How the hell am I supposed to get these through a trigger guard?”
Trigger noted her slender fingers with their long, pink polished nails. He could see how the nails might present a problem if someone was in a hurry to pull a trigger… “You’re the decoy,” he said, pointing at her.
The blonde ignored him and fisted a hand on her hip. “Justin, I’m doing you a big fucking favor—”
“For which I’ll be eternally grateful,” Justin said with a crooked grin. “I know we’re lucky to have you.” He gave Trigger a quick glance. “Had to call in a chip from a group I’ve worked with before out of Montana. Knew the second I saw our client’s daughter that Cass was a dead ringer.”
Cass blew at a strand of hair that was sticking to her bubble-gum pink lipstick. When that didn’t work, she raised her hand and used the tip of one of her immaculately groomed fingers to gingerly pull it free. “I’ll gouge out my eyes with these things.”
“Will not, Cass. Quit your bitchin’,” Justin said. “You’re the only one for this job. You’ve been through training at Lejeune. What’s a little wax job and a manicure?”
“Know what a Brazilian is?” she muttered.
This time, Justin didn’t hold back a laugh.
Trigger’s mouth twitched. And lo and behold, a grin stretched across the blonde’s face.
Again, his breath held. While she’d been cover-model perfect approaching them, with a smile showing a slight gap between her two front teeth, she looked…approachable, real. And still possibly the prettiest girl he’d ever seen in the flesh.
Or it could have been the makeup, now that he looked a little closer.
She finally glanced his way. “I know, it’s freaking caked on—in this weather!” she said, shaking her head.
“Well, it’s good she had her stylist do it for you, so you’ll know how going forward,” Justin murmured.
“I have a suitcase of ‘product’,” she said, giving air quotes. “Who needs that much crap on their face and hair?”
Justin shook his head at her then turned to Trigger. “Trigger, this will be your partner for the op—Cassandra Locke.” Then he turned to Cassandra, “Cass, this is Trigger Matthews. He’s fresh out of the SEALs. I think you two will work nicely together.”
Trigger reached out to shake her hand. She placed hers inside his, and he gave it a squeeze—then wished he could wipe his hand on his pants leg. He’d pressed dead fish with more life in them.
She arched a brow. “I’m practicing. That’s how Eliana shakes. Feels like a dead fish, right? And please, only call me Cass.”
Justin cleared his throat.
Cass rolled her eyes. “I’m not dissing the girl. I’m sure it’s what she was taught. She’s very sweet, just really, really…young.”
“She’s only three years younger than you are,” Justin said.
“Well, she’s lived in a rarified world. I doubt she’s ever had to lift a hand to take care of herself.”
“While you’ve been in firefights, I know.” Justin nodded toward the doors. “Let’s meet the rest of the crew. Oh, and Eliana’s inside with her dad, too.”
Cass grimaced. “Was I talking too loud?”
“Nope. Just wanted to warn you.” Justin waved an arm for her to precede him.
Trigger followed her inside, noting the way the skirt of the dress hugged her nicely rounded ass.
A group had already gathered in a large, open living room. Justin quickly introduced Cass and Trigger to two other Black Knight operatives then turned his attention to a swarthy, middle-aged man and the blonde woman sitting beside him, who was dressed in a pale pink sundress. The woman grinned at Cass and fluttered her fingers in a tiny wave.
Cass returned the gesture than dropped her hand and glanced around, apparently just realizing she’d done it in front of witnesses.
His partner, huh? And she’d been trained at Camp Lejeune? Was she an ex-Marine? He couldn’t picture her carrying a heavy rucksack or crawling under barbed wire during a live fire exercise, but it might have been the fact that, right now, she looked like a princess.
The middle-aged man waved toward a long sofa. “Please be seated,” he said, in a lightly accented voice. Then he nodded toward another man sitting in an oversized armchair beside him. “My head of security, Stefan Dimopoulos, is responsible for hiring your firm, Justin. You came highly recommended. He also tells me he has briefed you concerning what is required of you while my daughter is here in New Orleans.”
Justin nodded. “Mr. Rosi, I am providing two men for round-the-clock protection for your daughter, Eliana,” he said, nodding at Eliana who gave him a small smile, “and I’m providing a decoy couple, posing as your daughter and her bodyguard, to distract anyone who might be trying to shadow your daughter while she’s preparing for her wedding to Vasili Pachis.”
“My daughter may look like a delicate flower,” Mr. Rosi said, eying his daughter with an affectionate smile, “but she is strong-willed, just like her father. She has a great love for New Orleans—she attended Tulane, did you know? Graduated well-placed in her class. However, she chooses to spend her final days as a single woman here, rather than her home in Thessaloniki.” He shook his head. “She shall have what she wants.”
The woman at the center of the conversation sat silently, her head bent. But what Trigger could see of her mouth told him that she wasn’t a happy girl. Her lips were pressed into a thin line.
When her father cupped her chin, she smiled, her love for him in her eyes.
Trigger almost felt sorry for her. Something was clearly off. She wasn’t a happy bride, not like his friend Hawk’s new wife, Kalea, who had faced a cartel that had kidnapped him to make sure he made it to his wedding.
Not even as happy as his buddy Rooster’s girl, Casey, who should have been sick and tired of weddings, given that wedding planning was her job, but she was happy with Rooster, sickeningly so, as far as Trigger was concerned. He gave a little shudder. Weddings weren’t his thing. Putting down roots with one woman for the rest of his life…? Well, he’d obviously never met the right girl.
Didn’t look like Eliana Rosi had met the right man either.
“So, your decoy bride will live here for the duration, yes?” Mr. Rosi said.
“Along with her bodyguard,” Justin said.
Trigger blinked and glanced at Justin, who gave him a nod. Sounded cozy.
“Vehicles will leave and arrive at the same time,” Justin continued. “Our decoy will be seen, dressed as your daughter, in her vehicle, so that your daughter can be spirited to the establishments she wants without any undue attention.”
“Good, good,” Mr. Rosi said. “I have enemies who would use her against me. Also, there have been kidnapping attempts…both here and in Greece. I want her kept safe.”
“The men I have watching over Eliana are experienced. They are both highly trained. We’ll keep her safe.”
Mr. Rosi sighed and turned to Eliana. “I am leaving you in their care, koritsi mou.” He tapped the end of her nose. “Behave.”
His daughter wrinkled her nose. “Naí, Ba-ba.”
Mr. Rosi pushed up from his seat, and everyone stood. “Your people will have the run of the house,” he told Justin. “I bought this place when Eliana first came here for university. Stefan,” he said, nodding at his security guy, “will provide you with a list of employees…the cook, the groundskeepers, the maid, Eliana’s driver.” His gaze went to Cass. “She will need to wear sunglasses. Her eyes are not a lovely deep brown like my girl’s.” He shrugged. “You resemble her, physically, that is good. But it’s all in the attitude, my dear.”
After he, Eliana, and his chief of security left, everyone took their seats again. Justin drew a deep breath. “One week, folks. That’s all this is.” He glanced at Cass. “Get with her tonight and see what she plans for tomorrow. She’ll provide your wardrobe.”
Cass nodded. “Will do. Was it just me, or did she seem a little less than delighted about her upcoming nuptials?”
“Not our business,” Justin said, grimacing. “Don’t blame her. I read up on this Vasili Pachis. He’s twenty years her senior and bald. I’m sure her father arranged it.”
Trigger leaned forward. “So, we’ll be staying here in the guest house…together?”
“You and Cass, yes. Gabe and Levi, here,” he said, nodding to the other two Black Knight operatives, “will be staying in the main house. Don’t let her out of your sight, guys. Also, we’ve loaded software to the computers in the guest bedroom beside Eliana’s and in this cottage, as well as two handheld devices, so that you can monitor the security cameras.” He stood. “I’ll leave you to unpack and get settled. I’m only a phone call away. Gabe’s got the lead.”
After he left, Gabe and Levi headed to the main house, and Trigger trailed behind Cass as they returned to their vehicles for their bags. He wasn’t sure how he felt about sharing the cottage with her. Sure, this was just a job. It shouldn’t matter that his roomie was a beautiful woman. It wasn’t like they’d be sharing the same bedroom. Still, he counted back the number of months it had been since he’d shared a bed with a woman. Too many.
“Don’t get any ideas,” Cass said, glancing over her shoulder.
“We’re sharing a house. That’s all. I don’t do relationships.”
“Do you do friendships?”
She huffed a breath. “None with benefits.”
Straight to the point. He admired her for it. He just wished his dick would get the message. He’d been in a mild state of arousal since he’d first seen her.
When she reached her car, a dark green Camry, she turned. “For me, this is the job from hell.”
“Why’s that? Sounds easy. All we have to do is babysit.”
“You do. I have to play-act. I’ll be attending fittings for a wedding gown, shopping for bridesmaids’ gifts…” She gave a shudder. “My worst nightmare.”
“You have something against weddings?”
“They’re a waste. All that money, and for what? An hour-long ceremony in a dress you’ll never wear again?”
He enjoyed watching her changing expressions. Every thought telegraphed before she said a word. Right now, her wrinkled nose and twisted lips displayed disgust. She’d make the worst poker player, and an even worse liar. He rather liked that about her. “I think your eyes are pretty,” he blurted.
Then clamped his lips shut. He hadn’t meant to say that out loud. “I mean, Mr. Rosi seemed to think your eyes weren’t as pretty as Eliana’s…” His cheeks heated. Fuck, could he just stop? She was looking at him with narrowed eyes. “Um, yours are blue.”
Her eyebrows rose, and she pressed her lips together.
“I’ll just…” he pointed at his car, “get my things…”
As he walked away, he heard her chuckling softly.