Guarded by the Cowboy - Em Petrova

Chapter One

Boone Wynton always caught hell for not wiping his boots after he’d been in the barn. His poor momma tried. He only ever thought of it after he was two steps in the door.

After he walked into the office, he realized what he’d done and backed out to scrape the manure off on the mat. A glance down at his clothes revealed dust, more dirt than cloth and the stray piece of straw or two.

Calling it good enough, he stepped into the new WEST Protection office. The scent of vanilla sugar assaulted his nose. His stomach grumbled in reminder he’d skipped lunch, first because he was at the back end of a cow pulling a calf, and then under the tractor the changing oil.

A rancher’s work was never done, but neither was his more pressing occupation as a personal protection officer in the company he founded with his friends and relatives.

He sniffed the air, following his nose and stomach in search of sweet rolls or doughnuts. In the open space equipped with enough tech equipment to run a government agency, he stopped, casting his gaze around the room.

“Can I help you?” The feminine voice might be called pleasant—even seductive for its softness—if he didn’t know the person who possessed it.

“I smell doughnuts.”

She cocked a brow at him. Lauralee Sheldon—age twenty-seven, graduate of Penn State University at the top of her class and former intern at one of the largest security companies in the world.

The woman had an IQ far above Boone’s, but that didn’t bother him. What did was the way she was looking at him now.

Like she’d swallowed a bug. Or caught a whiff of the manure on his clothes.

Fact was, she plain didn’t like him, and the feeling was mutual. The pretty brunette with freckles and serious gray eyes got under his skin as much as he seemed to annoy her.

Lauralee cleared her throat.

Shooting her a cocked brow, he dared her to tell him she ate the last doughnut.

She drew her fingers off her keyboard and pointed to the floor at his feet. “You’re getting dirt on the floor.”

“Your point?”

She wrinkled her nose. “Were you in the barn?”

“No, I was guarding some beef cows for practice,” he shot out. Sometimes he thought Lauralee forgot not only her place in this company but the fact that her office space was built on a corner of the Wynton Ranch. Of course, her nose was always glued to that computer screen—she probably rarely looked up long enough to walk to her car that was unfit for Montana roads and drive home.

“You can unwrinkle your nose now, Lauralee.” He let her name drawl from his lips. The first time they met, he saw how much she disliked the way he said her name, so he made sure to taunt her every chance he got.

She twisted her stare to her high-resolution monitor as a way to end the conversation. She was good at ignoring him, which was fine by him.

“In case you’d like to know, the Wynton Ranch has a new bull calf as of about three o’clock.”

She sniffed in response.

Man, the woman was so high and mighty that her views weren’t even in the same altitude.

He spared her a glance before striding into his personal office. He and his brother, Ross, both had private offices, and while Ross’s fiancée had decked his out in dark woods mixed with the high tech of an up-and-coming security company, Boone’s was still a blank slate.

He did keep a change of clothes here, for moments like these when the office was closer and he needed to clean up quick. He closed the door and reached into a small closet for a clean chambray shirt hanging there. As he stripped off the dirty one, he caught a whiff of sweat and birthing fluid from the cow. Maybe Lauralee had a good reason for wrinkling her nose.

He slid his arms into the clean shirt and buttoned it, leaving a couple of buttons open at the neck. Then he kicked off his boots and jeans, swapping them out for clean ones.

After bundling his dirty items into a duffel, he settled his white Stetson the entire team was known for wearing and walked out of his office.

Lauralee was still working, back to him, her brown hair skimming between her shoulder blades. She continued to stare at her screen. Over her shoulder, he saw lines of code flashing past quickly.

“What are you looking for?” he asked.

The numbers stopped flying by, and