The sheikhs tempted prot.., p.1
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       The Sheikh's Tempted Protectress, p.1

         Part #4 of The Sheikh's Every Wish series by Holly Rayner
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  Beth

  “Please don’t go.”

  Beth forced her expression to stay neutral in the face of her mother’s tears. This was the Navy all over again, she thought sadly.

  Prepared, she grabbed a box of tissues and held it out to her gray-haired mother, trying not to think about how many of those grays she had caused.

  “Mom, it’s going to be fine. Compared to the military, this will be a cinch!” she smiled, her teeth flashing in what she hoped was a reassuring expression.

  Her mother sniffed into the tissue, fighting to compose herself. “I just don’t think you’re giving it a proper chance here, Beth. You’ve only been interviewing for security jobs for a few weeks. Sometimes it takes months to land a position, especially with a celebrity!”

  Beth sighed as her mind reeled back to a few months prior. It had been becoming more and more clear that her options for upward mobility in the Navy were limited. She wasn’t a kiss-ass, and was unwilling to become one, even if it seemed to be the only way to get anywhere that mattered. Fast approaching the ripe old age of 26, and the end of her second tour, she had had a decision to make.

  That was when she’d decided to take the advice of her ex, which was probably not her best idea, in hindsight. She remembered the conversation like it was yesterday—over Skype during one of her breaks.

  “Beth! To what do I owe this great honor?” Connor’s grin was a little too broad.

  Beth’s smile was a bit more forced.

  “Hi, Connor. How’s life treating you?”

  Connor’s grin spread wider. He reached just outside of her view and pulled up a wad of bright green cash. Beth could clearly see the large 100 on every bill.

  He fanned it out in front of his face and breathed in, deeply. From behind the pile of cash, he said, “Oh, not too bad. And yourself?”

  Beth forced out a laugh. She had long been aware that sleeping with Connor had been a mistake. Almost immediately, he’d grown intensely attached to her, to the point where he was picking fights with any man who even looked at her. She’d nipped it in the bud as fast as she could. While he hadn’t taken the news well, over time they had become cordial again, and recently she’d heard some things about his career that must be true, based on this little display.

  “I’ll cut to the chase, then. I want in. I want to be able to make a decent living, and I’m sick of the politics in the Navy. So, how’d you get all that cash?”

  Connor put the money down. He focused more intently on the camera, and Beth sat back a little. He was always just a little too close for comfort, even when he was thousands of miles away.

  He wiped a strand of brown hair from his green eyes, and for a spilt second, Beth remembered what she’d seen in him. But what was on the inside…just wasn’t for her.

  “Are you serious, Beth? Because I think I could make you a very rich woman.”

  Beth sat up a little straighter. “I’m listening,” she said.

  “After I got out of that lemonade stand, I realized there’s a lucrative opportunity in the personal security business. I mean, paparazzi are everywhere, the world’s a shit show, as we both know and rich people want to feel safe. So I hired myself out as a private guard. Once word got out, everyone wanted in on it. Everyone wants to feel like Taylor Swift, right? So I started hiring out our old buddies. All of ‘em are making six figures now, Beth. And you should see how these people live…it’s bliss compared to a tiny, stinking sub room!”

  Beth was interested. How could she not be?

  “Do you think you could find me something, Connor? I think I’m done here. And the thought of being able to help my mom with her retirement is really tempting…” she said, leaving it open for him to offer, which he did, with enthusiasm.

  “You got it, babe!”

  Beth cringed inwardly, but kept her expression pleasant. It was amazing what years of military training could do for the ability to control one’s facial expressions. But babe? Ugh.

  “Close out your last tour, Bethie Bee, and then we’ll talk,” he said. Then his phone began to ring in the background. “Gotta go! Call me when you’re stateside and we’ll get you to work, okay? Muah!”

  He actually kissed the camera.

  Beth hesitated. Was this really what she wanted? Then she thought about the pile of money Connor was swimming in. She could really use that. Her dad had died a couple years back, and she could tell her mom wasn’t doing as well as she let on. Her mother deserved a retirement fit for a queen, and was going to need help.

  So, Beth signed her discharge papers, and came home to her mom’s modest three-bedroom house outside of Philly. She’d gotten in touch with Connor right away, and at first, he sounded certain that he could find her a gig. Female celebrities often didn’t feel comfortable around men, he had said. She would be placed any day.

  His calls had become less and less frequent. What started out as a few times a week with him calling and asking her strange questions about experiences she’d had in the military, became once a day, and generally it sounded like he just wanted to talk. Beth indulged him, thinking that keeping him in constant contact would increase her chances of landing a well-paying gig with some rich person’s wife or something. Whatever put the money in the bank.

  A few weeks went by without a word from him, and Beth was already looking at other job options when the phone finally rang, and his name popped up.

  “Hello?” Beth answered, her tone cold.

  Connor was quick to respond. “I know, I know, it’s been a while. Never mind, Beth—I’ve got a job for you!”

  Beth’s heart leapt, and she placed a hand on her chest to calm it down. This didn’t mean anything. She waited.

  “And?” Beth huffed.

  “What, no ‘Thank you, Connor? You’re my hero?’”

  “Tell me what it is first and then we’ll see,” she replied coolly. He had made such lofty promises. Now, she’d been sitting on her ass in her mom’s house for almost a month, doing exactly the opposite of what she needed to.

  “You surely remember a little place called Al-Merindha?” he asked.

  Beth winced. The tiny Middle-Eastern country just happened to be the location where they first got together. Al-Merindha was one of those places where East met West beneath palm trees and glittering skyscrapers. Basically, it was like Dubai, but larger.

  “What about it?” she asked, becoming impatient. If he could get to the point, that would be great.

  “There’s a sheikh there looking for a female bodyguard, so naturally I recommended you first. Beth, he’s really interested. He wants to meet you, as soon as possible. How soon can I fly you out?”

  “How about tomorrow?” Beth said, a hint of excitement building in her chest. Thousands of miles away from home, the Middle East wasn’t exactly an ideal place to start; her mother had only just gotten her back, and she knew she wouldn’t take it well when she told her that she would be leaving again. Still, what else was there?

  Connor laughed. “I’ll arrange a flight for you in a few days’ time. Make sure to bring a couple of suits, yeah? This is basically royalty we’re talking about here. Sheikhs are addressed as ‘Your Highness’ and everything.”

  “I will,” she said, smiling; a new adventure was on the horizon, and she couldn’t wait for it to begin.

  “Hey, Connor?” she said.

  “Yeah?”

  “Thanks.”

  “Anything for my best girl. I’m happy we were able to find you something—just don’t blow it! You don’t want me to look bad, right?”

  His tone was joking, but there was a small amount of steel underneath that warned her not to
mess this up. That undertone was almost enough for her to tell him to shove it where the sun don’t shine, but, again, she held herself back. The desert was waiting for her.

  So here she was, consoling her mother just as she’d known she would be. While she felt bad, Beth wasn’t about to back out now. There was money to be made, and she was ready for it. Besides, it wouldn’t be forever. For a few months, she could make a name for herself out there, build her resume a bit, and then come home again.

  After all, how hard could it be to babysit some rich guy?

  “What about that socialite, the one in Pittsburg?” Beth’s mother, Jodie, asked.

  Beth’s eyebrows furrowed as she tried to remember. “Are you sure there are actually socialites in Pittsburg? It doesn’t seem like a place rich people would want to live…”

  “Beth, stop trying to be funny. There were job offers about to be made to you, I’m sure of it. And how can we trust some Middle-Eastern prince? You know there are people on the internet that pretend to be foreign royalty just to bilk people of their money! I don’t like it at all.”

  Jodie was starting to hyperventilate. Grasping her shoulders, Beth forced her to look her in the eye.

  “Mom. I am a trained killing machine,” she said, and her mom winced. Beth didn’t like bringing up the fact that she had, in fact, taken lives. It wasn’t something she was proud of.

  “In what universe do you think I could be kidnapped? I have deep knowledge of most forms of physical combat. If anything, you should be worried for any guy who crosses me. No man gets near this without my permission,” Beth said, gesturing to her slight but strong body with a smirk. Sometimes humor worked to get her mom out of a funk.

  A pang of guilt shot through her as another tear rolled down the older woman’s face. Beth sighed. “Mom, I have to do this,” she whispered. “It’s good money, and it’s not forever. I don’t even have a contract yet. This could be three months or less, and these kinds of folks have a lot of money to throw around. Just think, we could get you a working dishwasher!”

  “Don’t put yourself in harm’s way for me, Beth Marie Coolidge. I won’t hear of it!”

  Jodie pulled away from her daughter’s grasp and strode over to the kitchen sink, turned on the faucet and began scrubbing a pile of dishes that had been soaking for the past day.

  Beth made her way next to her and picked up a drying towel. Without a word, her mother passed the first clean plate to her daughter, who dried it without comment. They worked quietly like that until the sink was empty, and then it was Jodie’s turn to sigh.

  “There’s something so satisfying about a bare sink after washing dishes, isn’t there?”

  Beth said nothing. She put the last of the dried bowls and silverware away, then turned to look at her mother, whose stare was resolute.

  “Just come back to me in one piece, baby girl. That’s all I ask. Please,” Jodie whispered, and Beth pulled her in for another hug. She didn’t like having to leave her.

  In that moment, she thought about calling Connor and asking if she could wait for another assignment, closer to home. Even just one time zone away would be more bearable for her poor mother.

  Then she thought about her bank account, which she had checked that morning, and frowned. No, she would be getting on that plane, and she would make her mother proud.

  “I’ll always come back, Mamma,” Beth said, squeezing her mother just a little bit tighter.

  They stood like that for quite some time, preparing for another separation that had already come too soon.

  TWO

 
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