Josh’s Fake Fiancee
Military Men, Book 5
A fiancée fabrication might just save her life…
Ever since she was a five-year-old with pigtails, Ashley Townsend has dreamed of becoming the prime minister of New Zealand. Now, with a career in politics, she’s well on the way to achieving her goal until a stalker threatens her life.
Josh Williams is taking time off after retiring from the military. A favor for a soldier friend? No problem. A pretend engagement? Okay, it’ll allow him to assess his future. Hands-off? Sure, he’ll treat Ashley like a sister.
After his first glimpse of his temporary fiancée, Josh admits he’s in trouble, and suddenly this easy assignment is a mite trickier. Soon Josh is dealing with the stalker, protecting his sexy and smart fiancée, and his heart is on the line. The press is asking nosy questions, the gap between pretense and reality is blurring, and Josh is wondering if granting his friend this favor is such a bright idea.
You’ll love this romantic suspense because it features an intelligent heroine and a protective soldier determined to keep his lady safe. Oh, and a little of New Zealand politics for spice and seasoning.
Other Books in the Military Men series
Read an Excerpt
“Isn’t she at home?” Summer asked.
“No, she attended a meeting tonight,” Josh told his younger sister. “I suggested meeting her here. I can spend the time checking out her security.” He turned to his brother-in-law Nikolai. “You and Summer should head home. You don’t need to wait with me. Ashley told me she’d be home after ten.”
Ashley’s home was a 1920s wooden bungalow that occupied an extensive section on Mill Road. Mature trees grew at the rear of the house, casting deep shadows. Ashley had left a light on, and the illumination spilled across her front yard. Two garden beds full of spring bulbs flanked a path leading to the front entrance while a verandah wrapped around the house. Hanging baskets and several pots of flowers and herbs provided color and scent and hinted Ashley enjoyed gardening. A locked garage sat to the right. Frog had told him Ashley had inherited the house from their grandmother, and she took care of her inheritance.
Nikolai shot a wink at Summer. “We should meet your fiancée.”
“We should.” Summer leaned into her husband, her smile impish in the glow of the security light. “Mum will require a report.”
Josh groaned. “Really, I appreciate you giving me a lift. Frog gave me permission to borrow his vehicle since Ashley is storing it for him.”
“We’d never leave you alone here in the dark,” Summer said. “Louie and Mac are looking after Sam. We’re good waiting with you.”
While her expression remained serious, his sister’s blue eyes twinkled with mischief. Josh groaned again even as he admitted he deserved Summer’s teasing. He and Dillon had interfered in her romantic life from the moment their parents had given Summer permission to date.
The riff from his phone—the first few bars of the Jaws theme song—stopped the conversation.
“It’s Ashley,” a tremulous voice said. “My car died.”
“Where are you?” Josh demanded. “We’ll come and get you.”
Ashley rattled off the address, although it meant nothing to him.
“We’ll be there soon. Are you off the road?”
“All right. Hang tight. Keep the doors locked. Ashley, I’m with my sister and her husband. We’re in a black SUV.”
“Okay,” she whispered.
“Give me a sec to tell Nikolai where to find you, then we’ll talk. You stay on the line.”
“Yes.” This time she sounded a fraction more confident.
“Where are we going?” Nikolai asked.
“I’m on Ruru Road. Do you know it?”
“No, but we’ll find it with GPS,” Josh said.
They piled in the SUV.
“Got it,” Summer said after inputting their destination. “We’ll be around ten minutes.”
“Did you hear that, Ash? We’ll be with you in ten minutes. Is there anyone nearby?”
“No. A few cars but no pedestrians. I was driving, and suddenly, the car stopped responding. It was fine during the drive to the meeting.”
Josh listened with approval. Good, she was steadier now. He’d keep her talking, distract her. “How did your meeting go? Do you normally go by yourself?”
“The meeting went well. There was one guy who asked a strange question, but other than that, it was a regular gathering where I discussed our policies with a Q and A afterward.”
“What was the strange question? Did you recognize the guy?”
“He asked about secrets. Everyone seemed confused, but no, he wasn’t familiar. He acted as if I should know him or at least understand what he meant.”
“A long black coat. A beanie covered his hair. I didn’t see what color it was because of the hat. A black beard. Tall. Over six-feet, I’d say.”
“Did you see him after the meeting?”
“No, he disappeared. I never saw him leave the hall.”
“What is your schedule? I have a few clothes, but I’ll have to buy more while I’m up here. My sister tells me I mustn’t embarrass you.”
“Most of the meetings are in halls, so tidy jeans and a nice shirt and jacket are fine. Oh, I have a breakfast meeting with the local business owners. Next week, I have a meeting with the other Labor candidates in Wellington.”
Josh pulled a face. “It sounds as if I’ll be busy.”
“What make of car does Ashley have?” Nikolai asked.
“A white Mitsubishi,” Ashley replied before Josh could ask her.
Nikolai peered through the windshield. “I see it.”
“We’re here, but stay in the car until I come to the door.”
“Matt didn’t give me much of a description.”
“Dark brown hair, blue eyes, six-three in height. I’m wearing jeans and a black leather jacket.” Josh grinned.
“Your brother didn’t tell me much about you either.”
Nikolai slowed and did a U-turn once traffic allowed the maneuver.
“We’re parking behind you,” Josh said. “I’m hanging up now.”
“Summer, stay here in the warm. Josh and I will check out her car,” Nikolai instructed.
“She might feel more at ease if I’m there,” Summer suggested. “You’re big men and tall. A bit overpowering for a woman who has suffered a fright.”
Nikolai paused. “Excellent point, sweetheart. But monitor what’s happening around us. Given the circumstances, we don’t want any surprises.”
As he climbed from Nikolai’s vehicle, Josh probed the shadows, searching for anything out of place. His senses didn’t indicate danger, so he strode around the car to stand in the light. Nikolai and Summer joined him, and the woman inside slumped before unlocking her car. She and climbed out, offering Josh his first glance of her.
Ashley Townsend was tall for a woman and slim. She had long, straight honey-blonde hair, and she wore it pulled back in a ponytail.
“You’re prettier than your brother,” he said.
She gave a tiny smile that exposed two dimples, one either side of her full lips. She wore makeup but still looked natural.
Summer snorted. “That’s a cool thing to say to your fiancée.”
Josh ignored his sister’s input. “Ashley, I’m Josh. This is Summer, my sister, and Nikolai, my brother-in-law.”
“Thank you so much for coming to get me. I wasn’t sure what to do. I mean, I can change a tire and do basic car maintenance, but I’ve experienced nothing like this before.”
“Pop the hood for us,” Josh instructed, keeping his tone smooth, instinctively wanting to reduce the stress in her voice and muscles. “What happened?”
“The first thing I noticed was when I tried to speed up my car didn’t respond. My car bunny-hopped, and I haven’t done that since Matt taught me to drive when I was fifteen and shouted at me.”
Summer snorted. “Dillon, my oldest brother, gave me my first driving lesson. He made me cry. I hear your brother is military too. Soldier types tend to own the bossy gene. We can compare notes some time. How many brothers do you have?”
“Only one. I have an older sister too.”
Josh moved around the car to peer under the hood with Nikolai.
“Nothing obvious,” Nikolai said.
“Could someone have added something to the fuel?” Josh prowled around the vehicle and spotted the damage straight away. He walked back to Nikolai. “Someone has tampered with the fuel. There are scratch marks on the flap where someone applied force. Might be best to leave the car parked here and get it towed tomorrow.”
“Sounds like a plan.” Nikolai shut the hood.
“The fuel cap was forced open,” Josh said when he reached the women.
Summer’s eyes widened. “I read a book club mystery where the baddie added water to the fuel. The fuel is lighter, and it floats to the top while the water drops to the bottom and creates problems with the fuel pump.”
“That’s our best guess.” The snippets his librarian sister collected no longer surprised Josh. She’d always had a thirst for knowledge. “Nikolai and Summer will give us a ride home. We’ll get the car towed tomorrow.”
Ashley closed her eyes then opened them again. “Thank you. Let me grab my laptop and handbag.” She opened the door and leaned inside to collect her belongings.
Josh’s gaze zapped straight to Ashley’s curvy arse and didn’t leave until his sister dug him in the ribs with a pointy elbow.
“Ow!” he muttered.
Nikolai chuckled while Summer sniffed.
Ashley backed out of the car and locked the doors. “Did I miss something?”
“No.” Josh winged a warning glare at Summer.
“Ashley, can you come to dinner one night? Since we’ll be almost related for a while, it’d be lovely to get to know you better.” Summer smiled sweetly, raising suspicion in Josh. “We live in Bottletop Bay, which isn’t far from your place. You can bring Josh if you must.”
Ashley smiled, and Josh stared, mesmerized by her dimples and soft, kissable lips. “Thank you. That sounds like fun. Most of my friends are involved in politics.”
Josh walked beside Ashley and opened the door before stepping aside for her to enter. The back of his neck prickled.
“Nikolai,” he murmured.
“Yeah,” Nikolai agreed with his assessment. “Summer, move it. Please,” he added when Summer sent him a look. He leaned closer. “Someone is watching us.”
“Oh!” Summer lengthened her steps now that she understood the reasons behind Nikolai’s demand.
Josh shut the door once Ashley was inside and rounded the car. He couldn’t see anyone, but someone was there, watching them. He slipped into the SUV, his spidey senses still tingling.
“Anything?” he asked Nikolai while thinking it was good that whoever was watching was at a distance. They’d spot him or her if they were within listening range.
“What’s happening?” Ashley asked.
Josh reached for Ashley’s clenched hand and threaded their fingers together. “We think someone was watching us.”
“Me? My stalker?”
Josh tightened his grip until she glanced his way. “We’re uncertain, but that’s the obvious conclusion.”
Ashley’s fingers clenched around his. “I hate this.”