They call her the Ice Queen…
but he’s determined to thaw her.
Bodyguard Mathias Trace is more comfortable on the back of a horse than guarding people. But when his next job involves brainy woman on a hunt for treasure, he’s as frustrated as he is turned on. Her pretty, delicate features and tight curves might threaten to give him whiplash, but her chilly disposition is enough to freeze any man in his tracks.
All Madeline asks for is a smart, savvy bodyguard. What she gets is a man who walks with a permanent swagger and only takes the name of his horse seriously. But she must be the first one to locate a rare artifact steeped in an ancient conspiracy theory, and she needs his help instead of his thunderous looks…though they might actually be starting to turn her on.
Searching for an artifact believed to bring two soulmates together is dangerous work, but so are the barriers dissolving between them. As those walls crash, their hearts are exposed, which means the woman known as the Ice Queen is sure to walk. Not that Mathias will let her get far…
Mathias always wanted to stay in the background of West Protection, he didn’t want to go in the field. Yet he does the training with everyone to be prepared. They need more employees to handle their growing client list. Now they’ve added one client that’s a bit different. Madeline Peerson needs a bodyguard and her own agency can’t provide one at the moment and time is of the essence.
Madeline has to get to an artifact before Dahl does, it will disappear forever if he gets there first. Unfortunately they face obstacle after obstacle as they prepare for the trek.
The first one is getting horses and a favorite scene.
“No horses?” Madeline couldn’t keep the exasperation from her question. “I’m sorry—they’re all booked for tomorrow.” The woman at the outfitter acted as if not having any horses to rent was no big deal, when it meant disaster.
Madeline settled her elbows on the counter and leaned in. “Exactly how many parties do you have heading into the canyon trails tomorrow?”
Mathias stepped up behind her, close enough for her to feel the man’s body heat penetrating through her clothes. As if she wasn’t hot and sticky enough in this weather without him adding to it.
“What she means is where can we find some horses if you don’t have any?”
The employee stared over Madeline’s head at Mathias. Her jaw dropped. Then she flushed pink.
“You can try down the road at Wild Bill’s.”
“Thank you, miss.”
Was it Madeline’s imagination, or did Mathias’s voice sound different? She wanted to whip around and catch him in the act of flirting on the job, but doing so would bring her up close and personal with him, and she was already tired of having him glued to her back.
The girl giggled. “I hope you find some.”
“Me too.” He placed a hand out as if to grab Madeline by the elbow. She stalked past him before he could do any such thing and barreled outside into the stifling heat.
“Why is it even hotter in the evening?”
“The land forms a natural basin. The rock’s holding the heat of the day and releasing it now.”
She inwardly groaned.
“Don’t worry. We’ll find some horses.” Mathias sounded confident.
“How can an outfitter not have enough horses? And what the hell was that back there?”
He shifted his head to pierce her in his stare. “What?”
“That disgusting flirting episode with the girl behind the counter.” She yanked open the truck door and jumped in.
Mathias took his good ole time rounding the front of the truck. By the time he climbed behind the wheel, her annoyance level had jumped two notches.
“That,” he twisted the key in the ignition, “was not flirting. That was being amiable and considerate of an employee. Your intimidation tactics weren’t going to make the girl pop out two more horses.”
Okay, he was right. She might fall back on her ability to scare people too much, when a simple thank-you would work.
They bumped down the road to another outfitter. This one had a big wooden cutout of a cowboy and WILD BILL’S painted across the chest. As they hit the parking lot, the sign’s lights came on, bare bulbs like those surrounding a Hollywood starlet’s dressing room mirror, except these outlined the cowboy.
“Ain’t that cute?” Mathias drawled.
“Charming.” She jumped out, but not before she caught his eye roll.
At the door, he blocked her way using his big body. She craned her neck to look at him. He must be six-two without the boots. She could still take him down in seconds.
“Let me do the talkin’.” Under his hat, his eyes were shadowed, but she knew they were fixed on her.
Seconds later, they were in the same predicament—no horses. No chance of getting horses.
She forgot her agreement to let Mathias do the dealing, and planted her elbows on the counter to glare at the little man who couldn’t be further from the famous gunslinger the name of the establishment suggested.
“Is it normal to run out of horses all over town?”
“No. First time it’s happened in years. We always have a horse or two left in the stable even on a busy summer day.” He scratched a finger on his balding scalp.
“Then why today?” she demanded.
A dinner plate-sized hand hit her lower back. The jolt of heat and the size of Mathias’s hand shocked her as much as the fact he touched her.
“Sorry, sir. We’re just trying to have a nice vacation, and we planned to take horses on the trip.” Mathias’s voice was smooth as silk.
The man gave a sympathetic nod. “I’d love to help you out, but a man came in a few hours ago and rented the lot.”
“All of them?” Madeline burst out.
The pressure on her spine increased until she couldn’t think about much else. His hand felt as if it spanned her entire lower back, thumb to pinky. It was too warm, but the heat began to seep through her skin and work at the stiffness she had from sitting on a cramped plane and then the truck.
She stepped forward, trying to separate his hand from her body, but he moved with her, which left her pinned between the counter and those long digits that she knew must be callused.
What did she care? She just wanted to find some horses and set out in the morning to beat Dahl to the artifact.
“What are our alternatives if we can’t get horses?” Mathias asked.
“I’ve heard of people taking dirt bikes.”
“Not exactly my thing,” he stated. “What about other animals? Llamas?”
“Have you ever ridden a llama?” Madeline twisted to look up at him.
At least he pulled his hand away. He shrugged. “How different can it be?”
“No llamas that I know of. But I’ve heard of some mules at the place two streets over.” The man pointed in the direction.
“I don’t know if mules are a good idea—” Mathias started.
Madeline cut him off by spinning back to the worker. “Thank you. Have a good evening.”
She hurried out with Mathias on her six. The man never seemed to move from his position. At least he was devoted to his job.
“Mules? No way.” He tugged down his hat brim.
“What happened to being considerate to an employee? It’s not his fault some douche-bag rented all the…” She trailed off as it suddenly hit her.
Em Petrova. CowboyConspiracyTheory (Kindle Locations 498-551). Kindle Edition.
The mules they acquire pose a couple of difficulties for Mathias but they do manage.
The trek is difficult and becomes more dangerous as Madeline realizes Dahl knows exactly where they are and another little tidbit she keeps from Mathias.
Ups and Downs both literally and figuratively as this adventure continues, even as these two cave to their attraction to each other just adding a different sort of sizzle to the weather’s heat.
5 Contented Purrs for Em!
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Em Petrova was raised by hippies in the wilds of Pennsylvania but told her parents at the age of four she wanted to be a gypsy when she grew up. She has a soft spot for babies, puppies and 90s Grunge music and believes in Bigfoot and aliens. She started writing at the age of twelve and prides herself on making her characters larger than life and her sex scenes hotter than hot.
She burst into the world of publishing in 2010 after having five beautiful bambinos and figuring they were old enough to get their own snacks while she pounds away at the keys. In her not-so-spare time, she is fur-mommy to a Labradoodle named Daisy Hasselhoff and works as editor with USA Today and New York Times bestselling authors.