Issued to the Bride:One Sniper

By: Cora Seton

Jo backed away from him as he set his bag in the front hall and looked around.

“I’ve got something—for your sister. From the General,” he said.

Jo swallowed, still eyeing him like he might be harboring the plague, and Hunter knew he needed to bridge the gap between them. “It’s good to meet you.” In his experience, most women couldn’t ignore a pleasantry like that.

Jo’s good manners kicked in and she nodded. “Good to meet you, too.” A spark of interest kicked to life inside him when her gaze flicked over him. Hunter wondered what she thought about what she saw.

When she found him watching her back, she quickly turned away, her cheeks flushed, and satisfaction settled within him. He’d seen interest in her eyes. That was a start.

She led him wordlessly through the house, and he took in the neat interior. The kitchen was a large room that overlooked the backyard. Jo moved toward the back door, but Hunter stopped at the table. The Franks’ dinner table was a lot like this one. Hunter couldn’t help but run his fingers over the table’s smooth surface. So many memories—

His fingers slid into a rough gouge.

The Franks’ table didn’t have scars like these, though.

He turned to Jo.

“Bullets. From the shoot-out,” she explained, as if she guessed he’d have heard all about that.

Hunter nodded and pulled his hand away. He had heard all about the shoot-out that had nearly taken Cass’s and Lena’s lives. Thank God Brian had been there to help, or who knew what would have happened? He took in the freshly painted walls and remembered the renovations Connor had talked about to patch the place up. This wasn’t Heartfelt Acres. This was Two Willows. He’d have to work to fit in here.

Jo still watched him, wary as a doe and just as apt to flee if given the chance. “I mean it, I won’t—”

“Marry me, I got it,” Hunter finished for her. “I’ll point out I haven’t asked you.”

“Still. Just making my position clear.”

Hunter had spotted the wedding festivities through the kitchen windows. “Mind if I go pay my respects to the bride?” It was probably best not to let her dig in her heels too deep about marriage before they got the chance to know each other.

Hunter liked her resoluteness, though. Jo was a woman who stood her ground. He valued that in people. Hated it when people cut ties and ran.

With a sigh, Jo waved him on. She followed him outside to where Connor stood with Sadie, who was dressed in a beautiful white wedding gown. Brian and his wife, Cass, stood nearby, as did Jo’s other sisters, Lena and Alice, whom Hunter recognized from their photographs back at USSOCOM. Next to Cass stood a redhead Jo introduced as Wyoming Smith, Cass’s best friend.

“Hunter—you made it.” Brian came and clapped him on the back.

“Good to see you again.”

“How was the trip?” Connor asked.

“Uneventful.” Hunter ignored the silent communication shooting between sisters. A look here, a raised eyebrow there. Were the women alarmed at yet another man sent into their midst by the General?

“Your father sent me,” he said to Jo’s sisters. “I’m supposed to—”

Hell. What was he supposed to do?

The Reed women waited expectantly for him to finish his sentence. Five sets of sharp, clear eyes waiting to judge him if he lied. Six, counting Cass’s friend, who was watching the whole exchange avidly.

“—to make Jo happy. She gets whatever she wants,” he finished lamely. That’s what the General had said, though, hadn’t he?

“Are you supposed to build something? Like Connor did for me?” Sadie asked.

Hunter knew Connor had built his bride a walled garden—a legacy project, he’d called it. Sadie’s mother had built the greenhouse and, more importantly, planted the large hedge maze on the property. Connor had come ostensibly to help Sadie add a new feature to Two Willows.

Of course he’d really come to marry Sadie, the way the General had sent Hunter to marry Jo.

“Something like that.” Hunter thought fast. What would the youngest daughter of a dictatorial General want most? “Something of her own. Jo gets to pick.”

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