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Reyn's RedemptionThe Bride's Bodyguard

When armed gunmen open fire at Paige Bancroft’s wedding, critically wounding her groom when he wouldn’t turn over a mysterious “bead”, best man and former Navy SEAL Jake McCall hustles the bride to safety. But until Jake and Paige can determine what the gunmen were after, Jake must keep Paige safely hidden from the terrorists. While in hiding with Jake, Paige deals with not only her groom’s betrayal, but also a sizzling attraction to her brooding protector.


...the scenes fly. A very good adventure with an interesting plot makes this story strong." -- Page Traynor, RT Book Club


"Do you, Paige Michelle Bancroft, take Brent to be your lawfully wedded husband, for better or for worse, in sickness and–"

A strange buzzing filled Paige's ears, drowning out the minister's voice and ramping up the panic constricting her chest. The hand holding her bouquet shook, making the imported orchids tremble. Her mother's antique pearl choker strangled her.

No, no, no, she wanted to scream. I don't love Brent. I don't want to spend my life with him.

"–as long as you both shall live?" The minister raised an expectant gaze to her, cuing her to respond.

"I do," she rasped. Her answer seemed to come from the bottom of a deep well, a hollow, disembodied voice with its own will.

Brent squeezed her free hand and gave her a smile, which she dutifully mirrored, despite the legion of butterflies battering her stomach and the doubts shouting in her head.

She cast a quick glance to the front row where her mother joyfully dabbed her eyes and her father's triumphant grin beamed at her. Her parents' happiness bolstered her courage.

I'm so proud of you, Neil Bancroft had whispered to Paige as he escorted her down the aisle moments ago. Brent is your perfect match.

She'd swallowed the bitter uncertainties that rose in her throat, wanting to reply, No, he's your perfect match. Don't make me do this! Instead she'd forced a grin and nodded.

Marrying Brent was her destiny, her obligation. Her marrying the man who would soon be the CEO of Bancroft Industries meant control of the family business would stay within the family. More important, she was making her father happy. Her father doted on Brent as if he were the son Neil never had.

Paige had long ago come to terms with the fact that her marriage was more a business merger than a love match. As the oldest daughter in the family, she knew her father expected her to put family obligations first. When Brent had proposed to her, with her father sitting across the table from them, she'd seen how the prospect of her marriage to his protege had thrilled her father. Her engagement had earned her unprecedented praise and acceptance from her hard-to-please father.

A tug on her hand called her attention back to her groom, who was slipping an extravagant ring on her finger. "With this ring, I thee wed."

Her heart tap-danced as she turned to hand her bouquet to her sister Holly and receive from her Brent's ring.

Holly gave her a curious look, whispering discreetly, "You okay?"

Another fake smile and tiny nod. "Of course."

Paige shoved down the twinge of envy for her sister's loving and happy marriage to a handsome doctor. Holly and Matt's Christmas wedding last winter had been a small affair but bursting with heartfelt affection and joy.

Paige drew a deep, steadying breath as she faced her groom with his wedding band in hand and prepared to recite her vows. She could make this marriage work if she kept the right attitude and put aside her childish dreams of a fairytale prince to sweep her off her feet. The kind of romantic dreams her youngest sister, Zoey, was chasing.

I can't pretend I'm happy to see you marrying someone you don't love, Zoey had declared in the same phone call in which she explained her reasons for skipping Paige's wedding. Not having Zoey at her wedding broke Paige's heart, but her temperamental youngest sister had always been stubborn, opinionated and unpredictable. And so Zoey was God-knows-where with her latest loser boyfriend, protesting Paige's practical decision by boycotting the wedding ceremony.

Brent might not be her dream love match, but he had his good qualities. He was thoughtful, intelligent, generous, polite, and ambitious. He tried hard to make her happy– and he tried even harder to make her father happy. He was comfortable, like her favorite old pair of slippers.

With a mental kick in the pants, Paige shook off the doubt demons plaguing her and firmed her resolve. Zoey was wrong. Marrying Brent Scofield was the right thing to do. She'd be fine, and she'd learn to love him. She'd make her marriage work.

With shaking hands, she lifted the gold band to Brent's finger. "With this ring, I– "

Slam!

The door at the back of the sanctuary crashed open, and Paige jerked her head toward the source of the distracting noise.

A man in a long trench coat strode down the center aisle toward the altar. "Sorry, I'm late. But I didn't want to show up too soon and give the groom a chance to escape."

Brent snatched his hand from Paige's and stiffened as he faced the intruder. "Who are you, and what do you want?"

"Who I am doesn't matter. And you know what we want, Scofield."

***

Jake McCall surreptitiously reached for his sidearm hidden at his hip under his tuxedo coat and stepped smoothly between the intruder and the groom. He'd been so caught up in deciphering the odd reluctance and anxiety in the bride's expression that he'd allowed his vigilance over the groom's safety to lapse for valuable seconds. He shoved down the self-recriminations that would only serve as further distractions and shifted into battle mode.

Even as Jake drew his SIG-Sauer P-226 and moved into a more offensive position, Brent shifted out from behind him, addressing the man in the trench coat. "And if I refuse?"

As if on cue, several more men, all armed with rifles, appeared in the balcony and stepped through the side and back doors of the sanctuary.

A murmur of distress whispered through the congregation, and the bridesmaids huddled together behind the altar rail.

Jake's grip on his pistol tightened. Quickly he began recalculating his best strategy to protect his client and avoid getting anyone else shot in the process. He sent a quick glance around the sanctuary monitoring the other gunmen, then returned his attention to the ringleader. The man's trench coat, out of place on a rain-free summer day, bothered Jake. Rather, not knowing what might be under that long coat bothered him more.

Trench Coat sent Brent a gloating smirk and jerked a nod toward Jake. "I see you were expecting us." Turning, he narrowed a menacing glare on Jake. "Drop it. Or my men will drop you and anyone else in the line of fire."

Book 2 in The Bancroft Brides
October 2010
Silhouette Romantic Suspense
ISBN 978-0-37327-700-1

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