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Logan (Steele Protectors 1) by Carole Mortimer (1)

Chapter 1

 

“Don’t tell me, your brother/sister/mother/father, or just for a change, a cousin, are in debt to either the head of the Mafia or the bratva, and now they’re demanding immediate payment of said debt or your virginal body as forfeit?” The man behind the desk, having only glanced briefly at August when she entered the office, now spoke in an utterly bored voice as he stared up at the ceiling rather than August as she sat on the edge of the chair on the opposite side of the desk. “Except I know Gregori Markovic, head of the London bratva, and he’s a very happily married son-of-a-bitch, so I know he isn’t the one making that particular threat.”

It was slightly unnerving to hear that this man knew the ruthless Russian, especially when he looked like a dangerous biker rather than someone who worked for the Steele Protectors company. Although the woman outside at reception had assured August that was exactly what he was.

He had slightly overlong dark hair, heavy stubble on his chin—not designer stubble either, but as if he had simply decided not to shave for a couple of days. He wore a well-worn, short-sleeved, skintight black T-shirt that revealed every single bulge of muscles in his arms and chest, faded black jeans with a hole in one knee—again, not through design but simply from wear—and heavy black boots. The latter were currently propped on the desktop as he reclined back in his leather chair.

A man August didn’t think looked as if he wanted to be sitting behind a desk at the Steele Protectors security company at all, let alone acting as their representative to prospective clients.

“Or,” he continued, again without even glancing in her direction, “your brother/sister/mother/father/cousin have gone missing and you want us to go looking for them in some godforsaken place on the planet where we’ll either get eaten alive by giant ants or freeze our balls off on an iceberg in Alaska.” He finally lowered his gaze and pinned August in place with surprisingly shrewd dark eyes. “Which one is it?”

What an arse.

What an arrogant arse!

August glared at him. “Do your employers know how bloody rude you are?” she snapped. “Because if you treat all prospective clients in this arrogant and uninterested manner, then I’m surprised they manage to keep any clients at all.”

“Did I hear that you’re being unsociable to a client again, Logan?” another man enquired as he walked into the room.

Logan shrugged “You know me, Rourke.”

“Unfortunately, I do,” the second man drawled.

August had done a double take as she stared at the man whose perfectly tanned and clean-shaven facial features were nevertheless recognizably identical to those of the unkempt man sitting behind the desk.

But there the similarities ended. This second man—undoubtedly the other man’s twin—looked as if he should be the model on the cover of a glossy magazine. He wore a designer-label suit and silk shirt and tie, along with having expertly styled short, dark hair to complement that chiseled and handsome face.

Knowing their names also revealed to August that neither of these men were employees at Steele Protectors but were, in fact, two of the six Steele brothers who owned the company.

Rourke gave August a sympathetic glance. “Is my twin being an annoying arse?”

She snorted. “I believe an arrogant arsehole better describes his behavior up to now. Although,” she added mockingly, “I now completely understand the references Logan the Pain, Rourke the Charmer, Bryce the Fighter, Haydn the Nerd, Lucan the Accountant, and Atticus the Eldest.”

Logan finally showed some interest as that dark gaze leveled on her for the first time since the brief glance she’d received when she walked into the room. “Who the hell are you?”

“My name is August Harvey,” she supplied. “And for your information, it isn’t my sister that’s missing it’s your adopted sister! At least, I think she’s missing,” August added with a pained wince.

Booted feet thudded down on to the polished wooden floor. “What the fuck…?”

“Jenna is missing?” Rourke’s voice had sharpened with concern.

August swallowed, not sure which of the brothers she should answer, but as “what the fuck” wasn’t really a question, she decided to go with the latter remark. “I…I haven’t seen her since she went out clubbing with some of our friends on Friday evening. Apparently, Jenna met someone, a man, at Utopia, coincidentally owned by Gregori Markovic.” She shot Logan a sideways glance. “She then left with this man rather than going home in the cab with our other friends.”

“And you’ve only decided to tell us this now, partway through Monday?” Logan accused.

August glared. “I’m Jenna’s friend and flatmate, not her jailer.”

Logan eyed her incredulously. “You’re Aggie?”

Her cheeks warmed. “Only Jenna calls me that. And she only does it to irritate me.”

“Well, Aggie,” he came back pointedly, “you certainly took your sweet time about alerting any of us to the fact Jenna didn’t come home on Friday night. Or is that a normal occurrence for the two of you?”

August felt the warmth creeping into her cheeks. “If you mean do we often spend a night away from the apartment, I don’t consider that to be any of your business.” Even if the answer was no.

“I’m making it my business.”

She snorted. “As I said, Jenna is my friend as well as my flatmate.”

“A friend you aren’t even sure is missing!”

August drew in a deep and controlling breath. Continuing to argue with this man wasn’t doing anything to help find Jenna. “I’ve tried calling her and texting her several times, but the calls go to voicemail, and she isn’t answering my texts either. Also,” August added before another sarcastic reply could come her way, “Jenna keeps your contact numbers on her phone, and she has that with her, I had no way of reaching any of you over the weekend.” A weekend she had mostly spent worrying as to where Jenna could be that she wasn’t even answering her phone or text messages.

At twenty-two, both women were of an age where they didn’t owe explanations to anyone for spending a night away from the apartment. The two of them preferred to live by the code, if it’s something I want you to know, then I’ll tell you.

Which wasn’t to say August and Jenna didn’t care about each other, as Logan was implying, because they did. But they also respected the fact they were both adults. The six Steele brothers were Jenna’s adopted family, but they were also, to quote Jenna, “overprotective and bossy.” August didn’t even have that, having been orphaned when her parents were killed in a car crash shortly after her eighteenth birthday.

The two woman had met at uni four years ago. They weren’t taking the same course, but had shared one of the units in the halls of residence with two other girls. Both having red hair and green eyes, everyone had assumed the two of them were sisters.

Their friendship had grown from there, and it had seemed like the most natural thing in the world for the two of them to rent an apartment together when they finished their degrees a year ago. It had been a good year, with very few disagreements, and then only over minor things, like whose turn it was to put out the trash or clean the apartment.

Consequently, August hadn’t been too worried when Jenna didn’t come back from clubbing with their friends on Friday evening. August would usually have gone out with them, had intended to do so, but it had been such a difficult week at work and she had just wanted to veg out in sweats and an overlarge T-shirt and eat a pizza while she binge-watched a couple of her favorite movies before falling asleep on the couch.

Nor had August been too concerned when Jenna hadn’t called all day Saturday either. Especially after one of their friends had telephoned for a gossip and revealed that Jenna had spent a lot of time dancing with a guy she met at one of the clubs the previous evening and later left with him.

But Saturday evening also passed without August hearing from Jenna. Then all day Sunday.

A call to Jenna’s office this morning had also revealed that she hadn’t turned up for work, nor had they received any phone call from Jenna to explain why she wasn’t coming in.

August knew how much Jenna loved her job as part of the junior management in a bank, and there was no way she would jeopardize it for a man she had only just met.

Which was why August was currently sitting here, during her lunchbreak, talking to the Pain and the Charmer.

 

Having drunk almost a bottle of whisky the previous night, Logan had a hangover to beat all hangovers, and the last thing he had wanted to do today was once again sit behind a desk at Steele Protectors. The only plus to that had been Sophie was out on the reception desk, as usual, answering the phone and any other enquiries, and as it was Monday morning, most people were either too busy or too hungover from the weekend, like he was, to actually need to see or speak to one of the company’s agents.

August Harvey had been the exception.

Although Logan hadn’t realized that was her name when he started speaking to her. He had been taking a much-needed nap when Sophie called through to his office, and he hadn’t even bothered to listen to her conversation past “needs to speak to you urgently.”

He wasn’t sure he would have made the connection to Jenna’s flatmate even if he had listened to this woman’s name. For some reason, he had always thought the Aggie his cousin talked about and shared a flat with would be more staid in her appearance. She worked as an assistant in an art gallery, for God’s sake.

August Harvey might be wearing a conservative black business suit and a green blouse, but the suit was tailored to her curvaceous body, and the above-knee length of the skirt left a long length of shapely legs bare above black, three-inch-heeled shoes. The green blouse was silk, and the three opened buttons at her throat revealed the tops of the fullness of her breasts cupped in a black lace bra.

She wore very little makeup, but what she did was expertly applied. Dark mascara on long lashes, eyeliner that made those green eyes pop, a light foundation on her creamy-soft skin, and a coral lipstick that gave a slightly glossy appearance to gently pouting lips.

She was also wearing a light perfume based on a citrus fruit and some sort of spice.

Logan might not appear to have taken much notice of this woman when she first entered the office, but the instinct to note everything about a person came naturally to him.

Put this woman’s sexy appearance together with that insidious perfume, the long red hair, and sparkling green eyes, and August Harvey was a very beautiful and desirable woman.

She also, quite rightly, thought he was a complete arsehole.

He was thirty-three years old, six feet three inches tall, still single, and intending to remain that way. Oh, he liked sex, he liked it a lot, but always with women who knew there would be no relationship or wedding bells following shortly thereafter.

So, yeah, that probably made him an arsehole.

As for being polite to clients… It was his eldest brother, Atticus, who had consigned him to working in the office until he considered Logan, having only returned to work a week ago, was completely recovered from the gunshot wound he had received on his last assignment a month ago.

Atticus could decide what he liked, but that didn’t make Logan suitable for sitting in an office all day and making nice with the clients. He much preferred to be out there doing what he did best. And despite what he had said to August earlier, what he did best was find people. The ones who didn’t want to be found as well as the ones who did.

Which was what he intended to do now. Jenna had been part of his family for the better part of fifteen years, since her single mother, his own mother’s best friend since childhood, had died. That made this family business.

Despite his moans to Atticus, Logan knew he still wasn’t quite as fit as he would like to be after being shot in the back, but there was no way he was going to allow Atticus to keep him tied to this bloody desk another day longer when Jenna was missing.

He knew the reason why his eldest brother was being cautious, of course. Because of the nightmares that prevented Logan from sleeping. He usually took care of it by consuming half a bottle of whisky every night before he went to bed. That way, he was normally unconscious and too out of it to dream.

It was either whisky or sex, and Logan didn’t think it was fair to involve anyone else in the mess inside his head right now. Saturday night had been a particularly bad one, resulting in his overindulging in the whisky Sunday night, and coming in to work today with a hangover.

Being insufferably rude was an acceptable side effect, if he managed to get some uninterrupted sleep. To him, at least.

The scornful expression on August Harvey’s face said she didn’t agree, that disdainful little wrinkling of her nose telling him she thought he more than lived up to the description, Logan the Pain.

He would be having words with Jenna when next they met.

When he and Jenna next met…

He sat forward, elbows on the desktop. “We’ll need the names and addresses of the friends Jenna went out with on Friday evening.”

“Of course.”

Logan took a pad out of one of the desk drawers and quickly wrote down the information August gave him on the other three women. “Would you normally have gone out with them?”

“Usually, yes.”

“But not last Friday?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“I’d had a very busy week at work because we’re getting one of the galleries ready for an important exhibition next weekend. I decided I just wanted to chill out rather than—” She broke off to eye him incredulously. “Did you ask that question because you suspect me of somehow being involved in Jenna’s disappearance?”

Logan smirked. “Not at all, I was just trying to establish your relationship status.”

“My…?” August gave him a glare before turning to Rourke. “You really shouldn’t have allowed him out in public until he was completely house-trained.”

Rourke gave her one of his charming smiles. Smiles Logan knew didn’t reach the hard glitter of his twin’s eyes. Rourke might give the outward appearance of being that suave charmer, but inwardly, he was as capable of killing as Logan was. His twin just chose to do it wearing a perfectly tailored designer label suit, silk shirt, perfectly knotted silk tie, and handmade Italian shoes. As all the brothers were millionaires several times over, Rourke’s expensive choice of clothing wasn’t a problem.

Rourke now leaned against the side of the desk, arms folded on his chest. “I’m interested in learning that status too.”

“You two are unbelievable!” August Harvey gave a disgusted shake of her head as she rose to her three-inch-heeled feet and briskly settled her bag more comfortably over the shoulder of her fitted jacket. “Jenna is missing, out there alone somewhere, and the two of you are— Is there another of your brothers in the building that I can speak to?” she demanded impatiently. “One who isn’t more interested in getting inside my panties rather than listening to what I have to say?”

Rourke shrugged. “There’s just the two of us here today.”

“Silk or cotton?” Logan queried.

She blinked. “I beg your pardon?”

“Your panties.”

Her eyes widened. “What the hell…?”

Logan gave her an assessing glance from her head to her toes. “I’m guessing they’re black silk.”

August drew in a deep and controlling breath, determined not to lose her temper with these two men. Even if they were two of the most infuriating ones she had ever met.

Besides which, Logan had correctly guessed her current choice of underwear. “I’ve told you Jenna is missing,” she snapped. “You have the names of the people she was out with on Friday. I’m sure they’ll be able to tell you much more than I can.” She turned on those high heels and walked out of the office, her head held high.

“Jenna has been holding back on us,” Rourke murmured appreciatively as he watched August Harvey leave.

“I saw her first,” Logan reminded.

His twin grinned. “Yes, but she thinks you’re a rude arse who needs further house-training.”

“True,” he conceded dryly. “What the hell is Jenna playing at, leaving a club with a man she had only just met?”

Rourke looked just as unhappy. “I suggest the two of us talk to these other friends, and then pay a visit to Utopia, where August says these friends last saw Jenna. There’s sure to be recordings from surveillance cameras, and we both know the owner of Utopia, and his head of security, Nikolai Volkov.”

Logan nodded. “After which I will report back to Aggie on what we’ve managed to find out so far.”

“We’ll toss a coin to decide which one of us goes to see August later,” his twin stated firmly.

His eyes narrowed. “The last time we did that, you cheated by using a two-headed coin.”

Rourke gave an unrepentant grin. “We’ll use one of yours this time.”

Good, because after the last time Logan lost to Rourke, he had acquired a two-headed coin of his own for the next time this happened.

Whether August Harvey liked it or not, she was going to be seeing more of him, and very soon.

A lot more of him, if Logan had his way.

And, despite his laid-back appearance and attitude, he usually did.

What Logan wanted right now, pretty damned strongly if the hardness of his cock was any indication, was to have August Harvey naked in bed, apart from those black high-heeled shoes. Stiletto heels which, once August’s long and silky legs were wrapped about Logan’s waist, would dig oh so pleasurably into his arse as he thrust his engorged cock deeply in and out of her wet pussy.