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the hero, Leif Adel
Joanne Fager travels to the land of the midnight sun to recover the long-missing body of her grandfather—a Cold War spy—and is suddenly thrown into the middle an international conspiracy of lies, espionage, and murder. Thankfully, Swedish Customs chief Leif Adel comes to her rescue…and introduces Joanne to a few Swedish customs that make for some sizzling hot foreign relations…
CUSTOMS CHIEF LEIF ADEL took one look at the woman kneeling by her car on the side of the road and knew he was in trouble. Big trouble.
Djävlar. Devil take it.
Not only did that flimsy excuse for a dress ride way too far up on legs that were miles too long to be tolerated on any tourist, but the reason it did so was because the woman was attempting to change her own tire.
As if his day wasn’t already bad enough—having been forced to take over his father’s infernal Audubon Society birdwatching shift while his parents were off gallivanting in China. Leif hated birdwatching. Almost as much as he hated the feeling tightening his groin as he watched the tourist lady bend over her flat tire.
At the sound of a motor, he jerked his binoculars off the woman’s legs and trained them on the road. A big black Saab slowed, coming to a halt in front of her car. Thank God. Now he wouldn’t have to unfold his cramped legs from his hiding place at the top of this prickly, scraggly juniper in the middle of the bug-infested bog just to rescue the blasted woman.
Rescuing her would mean having to get close to her. Getting close to her would mean having to actually speak to her. And the way he was feeling right now, sure as the midnight sun, he’d soon find himself doing something really, really stupid…like asking her to the dance Friday night if she was still in town.
He groaned. His friends Håkan and Ingvar were prone to these midsummer attacks of hormones. But not Leif. Not after what he’d gone through three years ago. Leif Adel was immune to hormones, and to women.
He shifted uncomfortably on his high perch and ground his teeth.
Okay, so apparently not totally immune.
A cute, fluffy little blue and white ball of feathers landed on the next branch over and stared at him. Perfect. Leif glared back, sorely tempted to shoo the pesky thing off. Instead he resignedly jostled open his identification volume, found the correct bird, and made a notation in his dad’s journal of the time and the bird’s long Latin name.
Why couldn’t the damned things just stay down south where they belonged?
With an irritated sigh, he pointed his field glasses back at the woman and the men from the Saab, wishing they’d get on with changing her damn tire and leave him in peace.
He tugged at the stifling collar of his uniform shirt and cruised over her body once again with the binoculars, reluctantly appreciating the trim turn of her ankles in her high heels, her shapely calves, and the acres of bare thigh below the scandalously short hem of her pink sundress. Her pink, grease-spotted sundress, he noted with some satisfaction. Ha. Served her right for tormenting him with that view of her doubling over the tire wrench earlier—the wrench which she was now handing to one of the trench-coated men from the Saab.
Leif puffed out an impatient breath. Talkative little thing, too. She was chattering away at the two men, pointing at the tire and gesturing like an Italian. But they didn’t seem to be saying much back. Well, who could blame them? There was nothing worse than a woman who talked incessantly.
Leif’s ex-wife had talked incessantly. Of course, at the time he’d found it chic and endearing. So unlike the local yokels. Just went to show how easily a woman could trick a man into being a world-class chump.
Rousing himself from the unpleasant memory, he watched the Saab man balance the tire wrench in his hand and glance from behind his silver reflector sunglasses first at the flat tire and then back at the woman. Mr. Glasses gave his palm a smack with the heavy tire iron. Leif frowned as the woman backed up a step, her face suddenly filled with fear.
He felt a quick spurt of alarm. Hel-lo. What was going on here?
Without making a conscious decision, he leapt down from the tree branch he was crouching on and started jogging across the bog toward the trio, steering around the soft patches of quicksand.
Something wasn’t right with the scenario down there, and he didn’t aim to see it go any further. He might be on his lunch hour, but he was still chief of the Swedish Customs Service northern section, and he wasn’t about to let anything happen to a tourist on his beat. Or anyone else, for that matter. It just wasn’t the way things were done in Karesuomi.
Here, people took care of their own.
He didn’t stop to ponder exactly when he’d started thinking of the woman as his own. The last thing he needed was to get involved with another pretty tourist. Hell, look at what had happened last time. Three years later, he was still a hermit nursing a bruised and battered heart.
But this was different. It was his duty to come to this woman’s aid.
After that? Strictly off-limits. Yessir, ten minutes, tops, to chase away those goons and change her tire, then she was out of his life for good.
No smiles. No asking her where she was from. No polite interest in her vacation.
Definitely no invitations to dances.
He clenched his fist around his notebook, plastered on the Official Customs Scowl, and strode onto the blacktop behind her car.
“Hej. Kan jag hjälpa till här?”