The Wife He Protected

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Beth Sinclair has a secret, a secret she’s been hiding from for three years now. She’s happy hiding in the little town of Clearwater, and even happier when she meets a hot firefighter. However, will he stay around when he finds out what she’s been hiding?

Nick Kinkirk can’t figure out why the mousy damsel in distress intrigues him so much. He doesn’t like mice. His type is a fiery redhead in need of taming. However, this mousy damsel finds her way over his knee just as often. What’s with that? And when danger escalates, can he make the sacrifices needed to keep her safe?

This is book four in the Clearwater Romance series and can be enjoyed independently.

Publisher’s Note: This contemporary romance contains elements of mystery, suspense, danger, sensual scenes, and power exchange.

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Sample Chapter

Beth Sinclair walked out her front door into the warm spring air. The breeze smelled of flowers and trees, and just freshness on this lovely May day in Clearwater so walking she would go. She’d been cooped up in her home office too long. Downtown was only six blocks away and there were no sweets in the house. Something that needed remedied, badly. Today was Friday and their entire weekend loomed ahead. Her sister, Joni had said something about grilling out after she got home from work today, so the least she could do was supply dessert. Luckily, she only worked half days on Friday, so she had time to walk downtown and grab a dessert from Jordyn’s shop. Joni would be home by the time she got back, which was nice. Beth didn’t really mind being home alone, but didn’t like coming back into an empty house.

Walking, she kept looking around, keeping a watchful eye out, while she strolled through the quiet neighborhood. She loved living in Clearwater. It wasn’t her old life, but it was a safe, happy life. Doing what she wanted when she wanted and what she felt safe doing with no one fussing over her except her sister now and then, was a wonderful thing. It had been almost three years now since they’d moved here, and even she felt safe now in this sweet little town. Cautious but safe. They’d made a good move to their grandmother’s old house that they had slowly made into their own.

Beth arrived at the downtown square and headed to Jordyn’s shop. As she always did, she stopped and looked up at the sign she’d designed for Jordyn’s bakery, Baking Memories. It always filled her with nostalgia. Almost like homesickness.

Being a graphic designer had been her passion and she’d been good at it. Really good. But then, well, it had just felt good to finally do it again. The insurance company paid her very well, and the hours were excellent. Still she missed designing now and then, and the craving was getting stronger to get back to it. She’d done some brochures and flyers and things for her friend Ellie, but those didn’t satisfy her much. Feeling the need to stretch her creative wings kept getting stronger. There was the fact, though, she knew she couldn’t go back to her old life.

Sighing, she walked in the door of the shop, thinking while she enjoyed her company, Ellie wasn’t really her friend. She was Joni’s friend and they allowed her to hang out sometimes. Did it matter? It was starting to, but right now, she needed cupcakes.

“Beth!” Jordyn called out from behind the display case. “Good to see you!”

“Hello, Jordyn,” Beth said. “How’s business?”

“Exceeding expectations,” she said, and looked around. Then lowered her voice and held out her hand. “Look!”

Beth looked at the sparkling ring Jordyn was flashing. “Are you and Ben engaged?”

Jordyn nodded. “You are the first person I told! Other than my mom and she didn’t understand, but, well, it felt right to tell her. I’m telling my sister tomorrow then announcing to the friends with a small dinner party.”

Beth smiled but felt a pang. Joni would be one of those friends. She would not be. The party would probably consist of Joni, Ellie, Lucy, Izzy, and a few others, but not her. “I won’t tell a soul! Congratulations! I’m so happy for you!”

“Thank you,” Jordyn all but beamed she seemed so happy. “I can’t believe I get to marry my mountain man.”

“You were made for each other,” Beth said, suddenly tired of the conversation. “Can you give me a dozen Aunt Daisy’s oatmeal cookies and a half dozen each of triple chocolate brownie cupcakes, and strawberry cheesecake bites?”

It was less than five minutes before she was out the door, with her box of goodies, into the fresh summer air. For some reason, she’d felt as if she had been suffocating in there.

Beth headed home, pondering her life. Was this it? Forever? Just being home and working from home, with an occasional foray into town. No real friends, no real relationships but her sister? Everyone else thought of her as Joni’s reclusive sister, if they thought of her at all and Beth suspected that mostly they didn’t. Heck, she even had to borrow Joni’s car if she wanted to go anywhere.

Blending and not being noticed was a good thing when they had moved here. A few years later, though, well, it was starting to get to her. She needed to be with people. Get out of the house. Make some friends of her own. Be whatever it was that passed for normal. Go out to eat. Date.

Beth shook her head, not believing she was actually thinking about dating. But she was and that was normal. Normal. That word kept coming up a lot in her mind lately. Was she ready to be normal instead of, well, what she had been for the last few years? She thought she might be ready. Did she need to wait till she was really ready?

Maybe she’d let her hair go back to her natural color instead of this mousy brown. Grow it down to her waist again, if she could. Find a job in her chosen field of work.

Or maybe not. Nothing had to happen immediately, after all.

Beth sighed and turned down her street. One thing, for certain though, she did love this old house. It had been their grandmother’s and she’d left it to her and her two sisters. Sitting empty for a few years, Ellie, who had been a realtor before she turned into a hot shot city manager with political aspirations, had helped them get everything ready before they came down to move in. Sydney, their younger sister, had even moved here for a few months before she left for Chicago to go to vet school. Syd often wondered if their mom, a busy pediatric surgeon even noticed she’d left home. She needed to call Sydney tonight, it had been a while since they’d talked. Their mom? Well, she’d call when she had the time.

Walking in the front door, she heard music out on the back deck they’d built last year, tearing down the old porch where she and her sisters and their cousins had spent many a long summer afternoon playing. Termites decided it was time for it to go though. There was a time for everything, Beth knew, and felt change was coming. Right now, though, she wanted supper. Joni must have gotten home a little early and she was glad. Had she eaten today? She didn’t remember.

“Joni, I’m home!” she called. “I brought dessert!” Putting the box on the table, she headed to the back door, they’d changed from a banging screen door to glass French doors.

Stopping short, she heard Joni scream from the backyard, “Beth! Call 911! Now!” Beth suddenly couldn’t breathe. Was this it? Should she help Joni or hide? She felt frozen and as if all the blood had left her body. “Now, Beth! Hurry!”

Hitting 911, Beth made a decision and hurried to the patio to save her sister and almost sagged with relief seeing a fire. It was a fire. She saw Joni fanning the flames for some reason and Hank running over from the house next door.

“This is 911, what is the address of your emergency?” a voice said. Beth gave the address and said, “Fire in the backyard. It’s gotten out of control.”

She hung up and stuck the phone in her pocket, racing back to the kitchen for the fire extinguisher. By the time she got it and got back out, Hank had the garden hose on, and was spraying the fire out. She set the fire extinguisher down and watched him, trying not to tremble. Slowing her breathing, she watched, as if it were a slow motion movie while her sister and the neighbor ran around with the hose putting the fire out. Why did it look so odd? It felt as if they were characters in a movie and she was way up on the balcony, peering down.

Beth noticed in a strange, odd little part of her brain that the firepeople showed up. Fire people? She wondered, and also wondered what happened to her slow calm breathing. It just seemed to leave, along with coherent thoughts. Luckily, her ears were ringing so loudly the only thing she could hear was her sister screaming, “Beth! Call 911. Now!” It wouldn’t stop. It wouldn’t stop. She sank down beside the fire extinguisher and tried to focus on the strong buzzing in her ears instead. Her vision seemed to be getting dark. What was going on? Smoke inhalation? Why did she feel so strange?

Maybe she’d just take a little nap? There were miniature people running all over her yard and there was nothing she could do. Besides, the ringing was getting louder. Her head felt as if it were floating away and she decided to go with it. Why not? Who would care? Finally her eyes closed and the strange people went away.

“Beth? Beth? Hey, open your eyes. Good girl. Hi, Beth, my name is Nick. Welcome back. How are you doing?”

Beth opened her eyes, wondering where she was and what happened, but saw the bluest eyes she’d ever seen and stopped wondering. Or caring.

“There you are,” the voice that belonged to the eyes said. “Can you talk to me?”

Could she? Who knew? She shut her eyes again.

“Nope, don’t do that. Stay with me. Beth. Open your eyes. Come on, right now.”

She fluttered her eyes open again to see if his eyes really were that color. They sure were.

“Did you hit your head?”

Did she? She was lying down, which she didn’t remember doing. No, she didn’t hit her head. She didn’t think so anyway. “Answer me, Beth.” The tone was an amazing mix of gentle and stern. She liked it. It felt comforting, like he would take care of her. That was ridiculous.

“No,” she said, and thought she should try to sit up. His hands were on her head and his fingers felt amazing. A nice scalp massage would feel really good, especially with his fingers. “No. I just got lightheaded.”

Joni appeared to the side of her. “Beth, I’m so so sorry. I wasn’t thinking. I didn’t mean to scare you. Are you all right?”

“Yeah, I’m okay.” This time she managed to move a little to try and sit up.

“Can you get her some water?” Nick asked.

Sure, she’d get up and get some water. For who? Joni? Oh, he meant for her, of course. She was the one who, who what?

“What happened?” she asked those blue eyes.

“You seem to have passed out,” he said. “Have you eaten today?”

“I don’t remember,” she said. “Joni was going to grill out.” She let him help her sit up, because why not. It wasn’t like she’d been sitting up alone since she was six months old or anything. Joni came back with the water, and he handed it to her. “Drink up,” he said, and it felt like a comforting command that didn’t bother her at all for some reason. Obediently she put the bottle to her lips and took a few swallows. Why? Because he’d told her to, of course.

Hank came up from behind. “They said it’s all out and everything is safe. Joni, what happened?”

“It was an accident, Hank! Accidents happen. I bumped into the grill and knocked it over.” Joni sounded very defensive, Beth thought. Why? Accidents did happen.

“I’ve told you for months now that grill wasn’t safe and that leg was going. Listening to me would be a good thing.” Hank sounded annoyed. Beth hadn’t realized their grill was unsafe. “I’m taking you to the store right now and we’re getting you a new one.”

“No,” Joni said. “I don’t need you to do that.”

Hank shook his head. “Wasn’t a question, a statement of fact. I’m not going to have either one of you burning down my fence or my garden.”

“Oh, well, as long as it’s all about you.” They glared at each other and Beth saw Nick smile. His eyes weren’t the only handsome thing about him. He had a small dark beard, an absolutely gorgeous nose and those cheekbones. Perfect teeth and a full head of dark hair that was a little longer than the usual fashion but seemed to fit him.

She couldn’t help but smile back at him. Being used to Joni and Hank, their bickering and on and off again relationship was amusing at times. Other times it was simply annoying.

“Beth, are you okay?” Nick asked her as if they were friends or something. “Do you want to go to the emergency room and get checked out?”

She shook her head. “I didn’t hit my head or anything, just got a little lightheaded.”

“I scared her,” Joni said. “It’s my fault. Yes, Henry, it’s all my fault, the fire, scaring Beth, all of it. Bethie, are you okay for real? I’m so sorry.”

“It’s okay,” Beth assured her as Nick helped her to her feet. “See, I’m fine. Just, well, you know.” It had been a long time since a man had touched her. It felt right, somehow.

Joni nodded and hugged her, whispering, “I’m so sorry.”

Nick said, “Okay, the guys are waiting on me. I’ll go now, but if you need anything give us a call.” He smiled at her again and reached over to pat her arm and suddenly that felt like a very intimate move. Beth, girl, you do need a date, she thought.

“Thank you,” she told him. “I appreciate it.”

“We aim to please,” he said, and headed off the porch around to the front of the house, and Beth watched him go, feeling some kind of weird feeling. Abandonment? Bereft? Something. Why did she want to run after him? She didn’t, she didn’t even know him. He could be a serial killer for all she knew. He very easily could be. They could be very handsome and charming after all, and even have electric blue eyes.

“Come on, Beth. I’m making you a sandwich and a bowl of soup and then Hank and I are going to buy a new grill. If you are okay alone for a while?”

“I’ll be fine, Joni,” Beth said, dragging her eyes away from the spot she’d last seen Nick. “I can even make my own soup and sandwich.”

Hank shook his head. “Not happening, Beth. Come on, we need to make sure you’re okay and fed before we go.”

Whatever. Did it matter? She knew why she passed out and it had nothing to do with lack of food and everything to do with shock. If she never heard ‘call 911’ again, it would be too soon. However, there was that firefighter with the blue eyes.

No one was worth setting your house on fire for, she reminded herself as she sat down in the comfortable kitchen. This was her favorite room in the house, with her Grandma’s old sewing room, now turned into her office, a close second. Her office was a very small little room with no windows, unlike this room that had enough to let all the light in. The big sunny kitchen window overlooked what used to be her grandmother’s herb garden that Joni was trying to whip into some kind of shape. After a few years of Joni’s work though, it was still a tangle of weeds and flowers, much to next door neighbor Hank’s dismay.

However, she felt safe in her office. She’d installed a reinforced door and two deadbolts along with a sturdy lock. It was almost like her little safe room. She always kept a burner phone in there, plus had her computer and ball bat, and a container of pepper spray. It was more than likely a waste of money, but the peace of mind made her feel much safer in the entire house, not only in that room where she worked forty or more hours a week. This room made her happy though. They hadn’t remodeled much in here. Joni had painted, they’d bought new countertops and had them installed, they’d pulled up the old linoleum and put down a manufactured hard wood that looked real, but the old oak cabinets were still in good shape, the huge farmhouse sink was back in style again, and the windows always sparkled behind the cheery red and white checked curtains. The French doors, with their reinforced glass windows overlooked the deck and backyard. Plus it often just smelled good in here, cookies or bread, or whatever was in the oven for supper. She liked to cook and Joni was learning to bake bread thanks to Hank who had to be the best bread baker in Clearwater. But there wasn’t much Hank couldn’t do. He taught school, coached middle school ball, had a fantastic garden filled with flowers, herbs and veggies. And he also baked. The only thing it seemed he couldn’t do, was get along with Joni for more than a few days or weeks at a time. She’d never seen two people who broke up and got back together more than those two. He’d probably be her brother-in-law one day and she’d be the one Joni would come running to after their fights.

Beth sat passively and watched as Joni popped open a can of soup they’d canned the summer before, dumped it in a bowl and stuck it in the microwave. Then she got out the bread, butter, peanut butter and jelly. Beth smiled. Fried peanut butter and jelly, their mom’s go to when they got sick. Other kids got tomato soup and grilled cheese. They got vegetable soup and fried peanut butter and jelly. It was funny how they reverted when they were stressed.

“So are you really okay?” Joni asked Beth as she put down a glass of sweet tea in front of her. “Drink.”

Beth nodded her head, and glanced at Hank, but she’d figured out a long time ago, he probably already knew everything. “I am. Just hearing you yelling to call 911, well, you know.”

Joni nodded and came over to pat her arm. “I wasn’t thinking. I just panicked about the fire. I’m so so sorry.”

“I was glad to see it was a fire,” Beth said. “You know.”

“I do know,” Joni said, flipping over the sandwich to brown on the other side, then taking the soup out of the microwave and putting it in front of her. “Eat, sandwich will be done in a minute.”

Beth picked up her spoon and looked at Hank. “Why don’t you guys go ahead to the store and get the grill before it gets too late? I’m fine, really. Thank you, Joni.” She moved the offered sandwich over to her and took a bite of soup. It was just as good as it had been fresh last summer, bursting with flavors that had grown in their, or Hank’s, garden. He and Joni were a good gardening team. His yard was just like a picture in a magazine. Their’s wasn’t yet, but was getting better. Except for that herb garden that frustrated Joni so much.

“You eat a few bites first, okay? I want to make sure you eat.”

Beth tried not to roll her eyes. “I eat, I just was waiting on supper today to eat. I got busy.”

“You need to not do that. You’re allowed to eat more than once a day,” Joni scolded.

“I brought cupcakes and things for dessert,” Beth said, changing the subject. “I think I got enough for the weekend.”

“How’s Jordyn?” Joni seemed to allow herself to change the subject. “I haven’t seen her in a while. She’s so busy with the shop and Ben. I don’t think I’ve seen her since we helped her move into her apartment a few months ago.”

“She mentioned she wanted to get together with you all soon, and seemed good,” Beth said. She, of course, hadn’t been invited to help Jordyn move. That had been for ‘the friends’, of course. Once again, she felt the need to branch out a little, and make some friends of her own. She was way too old to be Joni’s little tag along sister. Or to be babysat. They’d been here three years now, almost. Things were safe, and fine. She didn’t need to hide like a little scaredy cat. Anymore, at least. “Busy, of course.” She almost told her about the ring, but why ruin a good surprise? Unlike her, Joni loved a surprise. She preferred her quiet, calm, stable life. The life she’d been getting a little tired of recently. Not tired enough to do much of anything about it, yet, though. Just enough to angst over it some.

“Bethie, why don’t you go to the hardware store with us? You could look for canning lids and explore that little gift nook you like so much.”

“I can be alone for an hour, Joni,” Beth said, and put another bite of sandwich in her mouth to not say anything more. She couldn’t blame Joni for hovering, especially after what just happened.

“I don’t know. I feel bad about leaving you.” Joni looked over at Hank who shrugged as if to say, up to you.

“Well, feel bad or don’t feel bad, but I’m not going, and you are. We can have cookies and cupcakes tonight while we watch Independence Day” again. You’ve been looking forward to movie night.” Joni did love her action adventure movies. Since she preferred horrible D list movies where a huge unstoppable monster terrorized the world, this one was a good compromise. One they both liked.

Hank shook his head. “You girls and your chick flicks.”

“We can’t all adore subtitled foreign films,” Beth teased him. “You are the high brow intellect around here.”

Hank curled his fingers, blew on them and rubbed them on his shirt. “What can I say? Tough job but someone has to do it.”

“As long as I don’t have to watch them,” Joni teased, while yawning loudly. “I mean, unless I’m really tired and need a nap.”

“Yeah, but then your snoring makes it hard to hear,” Hank told her.

“Henry!” she complained.

“Hey, you two take your bickering to the store and get us a new grill. Let me eat in peace.” She took another bite and stared at them while they stood up.

“Got your phone, Beth?” Joni asked. “I have mine. Just call if you need me.”

“Yes, Mommy,” Beth said, and smiled. “I promise. I’ll probably go back to my office for a while. Ellie has flyers she wants designed for some event she’s working on.”

“Of course she does,” Hank agreed. “Come on, Joni. Let’s take our bickering to the hardware store so I can put the grill together before it gets dark.”

Joni stood up but seemed reluctant and threw Beth a look. “Go!” Beth told her. “I want a cupcake and I’ll be waiting for you!”

“Okay. Just call, though, okay?”

“Joni,” Beth warned. “Go.”

She watched them go out the back door, probably to cut through the backyard and take Hank’s truck. What kind of grill would they come home with? She and Joni had a small charcoal one, and speaking of that, she should go out and clean up all the charcoal and see what kind of damage the fire had caused to the yard. She hoped it didn’t get to the roses and thank goodness it didn’t get to the house or the fencing. Grass could be replaced. Well, technically the house and fence could be, too, but not as easily. Especially when you lived next door to a Master Gardner who cherished his picture perfect lawn and gardens.

After she rinsed her dishes, she grabbed some leather gloves from the junk drawer and headed outside. There was a metal can in the garage in case anything was still hot. She looked at the small grill, still dripping water and foam from the firefighter’s extinguisher since hers didn’t get used. Yeah, one leg had broken completely off. Rusted through? She really couldn’t tell, but how had neither she nor Joni seen that and fixed or tossed it? Luckily, nothing bad had really happened.

Shaking her head, she opened the garage and got the metal can, and went back out. When had she gotten to be such a wimp? She remembered the strong, confident, yes, even popular person she’d been before. That woman would never have fainted. She would have taken charge and managed things. Handled it and probably laughed about it, instead of panicking. At least she’d only fainted instead of having a full blown panic attack. It had been, what? Well over six months since she had one. That was a very good sign, wasn’t it? Of course it was. Another sign.

It didn’t take long for her to get everything cleaned up, and the grass didn’t look too bad. Probably be able to tell more in the next day or so, though. Carefully, she made sure the metal can was far away from both the garage and the house in case something simmered in there and decided to come to a full boil later on.

Simmering? Yeah, she could feel her anxiety simmer under the surface and decided a good idea would be to go to her office for a while, till Joni got home. It was a lovely, lovely, May afternoon though. It wouldn’t be dark for a few hours yet. Staying outside felt tempting, but she’d already had one issue today. Another one would not be fun.

Going back in the house, she locked the back door, and double checked the front one, and then went to her office, closing and locking the door. There. All nice and cozy in her own personal little jail cell.

“Fun times, Beth,” she muttered to herself and she pulled up the design program on her computer. There were flyers to design before she could break out of here.

She put today out of her head. Tomorrow would be a better day, and there would be cupcakes and cheesecake bites tonight. Life was good, she reminded herself.

Then she paused, picked up her phone and texted Ellie. “Ellie, this is Beth. My schedule suddenly freed up, and I’d love to help at the fundraiser this weekend. Just let me know where you need me.”

She put her phone down and tried to calm the hammering in her heart. This was a good thing. She’d be safe in a crowd of people while she worked a booth and it was step one to getting back in the real world. Otherwise, she might as well be like Jordyn’s mom, in a nursing home and lost in her own mind. She was too young for that and that first step had to come sometime.

“Great! Will text you details later!” Ellie responded.

And so she was committed.

* * *

“So, Nick, what about the hot little brunette?” Xavier asked as they washed down the truck.

“You know I like redheads,” Nick said. “I like a little spice in my women.”

“Hair color can be changed,” Paige reminded him from where she was checking the medical kits.

“Well, considering what I do for a living, someone so afraid of fire they pass out, wouldn’t be a good fit,” he told them.

“But, but! Your biological clock!” Paige teased, stashing the bag back in the truck. “Time’s running out!”

“For you, maybe,” he said. “Me, I can have kids till I’m eighty.”

“And they could all fight over who gets to push your walker,” Xavier said.

“As long as they don’t push it down the stairs,” Paige added. “You gotta watch out for that. Your kids would be feisty.”

“I’m not that rich or that grouchy,” Nick told them. “They’d be nice to me.”

“Yeah,” Xavier said. “I have teenagers. You just keep telling yourself that.”

“Don’t scare the man off!” Paige said. “He’ll be a great dad. You know, if he can ever find someone who will put up with him, but really, he’s too picky. He’s doomed to be alone forever.”

“Doomed is a strong word,” Nick protested as he finished up. “Shift is almost over. You all have plans?” While he loved his job, what he also loved was his schedule. They worked four twelve hour days followed by four days off. It meant his days off changed all the time, and holidays were often on the schedule, but overall, it was great to have that long stretch of time off.

“Maybe you should make a house call and go see the hot fainting lady?” Xavier suggested. “Just to make sure she’s okay.”

Nick shook his head. “Not my type. I’ve actually promised to work the kids’ firehouse at some event down at the square Saturday. Then I’m probably going fishing.”

“Yeah, you won’t find a girl there,” Paige said.

“You never know,” Nick said, opening his locker and grabbing his stuff. “I’m outta here. See you all same time, same place next week.”

“We will be here, have fun!”

Nick walked out and got in his truck to head home. He did love his job, but it was great to have a few days off to recharge. It was Thursday night and he didn’t have to be at work till 6 a.m. Tuesday morning. He loved this little town, his new hometown, and most of the people in it. As towns went, this one had a lot going for it which helped make his decision to move here, well, that and the job offer that had come with a nice raise from where he’d been working. There was little crime, and the houses were inexpensive and the lake fantastic. He bought a little bass boat last year and spent a lot of time out there, fishing or cruising the lake or sometimes taking a pretty thing to a secluded cove and doing what came naturally. Why was he thinking of the skittish little brunette in the baggy jeans and oversized shirt he’d seen earlier today? She wasn’t his type. His type was a feisty, smart-mouthed, smart-witted redhead with a big laugh and large appetites for fun, adventure, and other things. Not shy little scaredy cats who fainted at the sight of fire. That was the kind you took home to mama and she approved of. He liked the ones mama disliked on first sight, just to be contrary. But she had been a cutie, and he’d had to stifle the urge to take her in his arms and comfort her. He was not the comforting kind. He was more the aftercare kind, he reminded himself.

Parking at the store, he went in and grabbed some fried chicken and containers of slaw and potato salad. The nice thing about girls you brought home to mom was that they could generally cook. When he got the urge for a home cooked meal, he had to beg an invitation to someone’s house or find a girl to take out to dinner and hope she’d cook breakfast the next morning. He could grill a mean steak and scramble eggs, knew how to make a country fried steak and mashed potatoes, but that was about the extent of it.

Getting home, he smiled at his little cabin on the lake. Nice and secluded. He’d heard there was a new bed and breakfast going up someplace around here, up north on the other side of the lake. Maybe he’d drive around sometime while he was off and look for it. Just to be nosy and to make sure it wasn’t close enough where a bunch of tourists were going to bother his seclusion. On good weekends, sometimes he didn’t see anyone for the entire four days he was off. Other times he did stupid things like volunteer to work.

He enjoyed the kids’ firehouse though. It had been a donation from one of the people in town. They’d saved her house and she’d been grateful. It was fun to take it out and watch the kids learn fire safety and get to slide down the pole. He enjoyed it and it always made him want his own ankle biters. What would he do with one? He walked into his little cabin and looked around. It was perfect for him, but a wife and a kid? Yeah. He’d have to make adjustments to his well-managed life where he did what he wanted when he wanted.

He didn’t do anything he didn’t want, except laundry. No one liked to do laundry, but he lived how he liked. If he found someone, on the upside, he’d have someone to cook and do his laundry. He grinned and said out loud, “Yeah, that’s how to get a wife. Threaten to give her chores.” He imagined the little brunette would fold his shirts just the way he liked them. He wasn’t going to think about anything else she might do, just the way he liked it done. He liked redheads.


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1 review for The Wife He Protected

  1. Redrabbitt


    The fourth book in the Clearwater Romance series was an emotional read, with charming characters, but like the others, this one has a woman who lives in hiding, disguising herself as non-descript. She is a woman carrying secrets that only a few know—one being her sister, Joni, who lives with her in their late Grandmother’s home. The story is about Beth Sinclair and Nick Kinkirk. They recently met at a small fire at the Sinclair home. None of the spankings are based on discipline but more on keeping things on an even keel.

    Beth and Joni Sinclair have lived in their late Grandmother’s home for the past several years. While Joni is a middle school teacher, Beth can work from home for an insurance adjuster and is even responsible for some graphic work in and around town—like Jordyn’s new bakery. Her life has changed after a terrible attack that hospitalized her for days. Now, she is a shell of a person, no real friends, no social life. She stays locked in a windowless room working safely, but not living life—just existing day-to-day. When a small grill fire has Joni yelling for her to call 911, it brings back memories of the attack.

    ”She knew why she passed out, and it had nothing to do with lack of food and everything to do with shock. If she never heard ‘call 911’ again, it would be too soon.”

    Nick Kinkirk moved to Clearwater for a new adventure and likes his position and hours with the fire department. He has his friends and occasionally dates. Why does the mousy brown-headed woman keep invaded his thoughts—she isn’t his ‘normal’ type of woman?

    The story’s plot will have Nick and Beth meet during the small fire, again working at the park, and now meeting for an alarm check at the Sinclair home. There is just something about her that draws him in—and he feels she is hiding something too. He isn’t afraid to comment to her that a spanking has a way of getting answers—and that is precisely what it will take for her to tell him her past and her present-day fears. With the support of Nick, Beth decides she cannot continue to hide away and slowly allows the former Beth to emerge.

    “Never claimed to be a gentleman, and really, it wouldn’t be any bother at all to spank some sense into you or the truth out of you.”

    “Just felt like a change. I’m tire of hiding in plain sight. He already knows where I am and living my life in fear is exhausting. I want a life again.”

    The story keeps the pages turning as both Beth and Nick navigate her past and plan for a future along with the developing feelings they have for each other. With the help of Nick and a trip to visit his family allows her to be herself and feel free, and Nick is happy too. Will he come up with a viable plan that will keep them together and allow for a future?

    Several characters from the previous stories are included in this one. What you will not find in these stories is any details or mention of sex scenes. It is strictly the relationship of this couple, along with a power exchange relationship.

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