Book 1: Safety Breach
Book 2: A Threat to His Family
Book 3: Settling an Old Score
Book 4: His Brand of Justice
Kellan tried to shut out the chatter and noise in the squad room so he could volley his attention between the live feed from the surveillance camera at the Serenity Inn and the medical examiner’s report for Oswald.He’d printed out the report to free up his computer so he could use full screen for the surveillance camera. He wanted to see something--in either the report or at the inn. To find something. He wanted a blasted smoking gun that would give them Eric on a silver platter.There sure as heck was nothing in the report or on-screen that would do that.But maybe Maylene would come through for them four hours from now as she’d said. Maybe she could indeed lure Eric there at noon. However, it was just as possible that this was a trap or a wild-goose chase. Still, a trap could yield them Eric if they played this right.Kellan had started the “playing right” by already having three deputies in position near the inn. When it got closer to noon, he’d go out there, as well. Wearing Kevlar and armed to the hilt. And if he got lucky, this would all come to an end today.He got up from his desk to pour himself another cup of coffee but decided against it. He was already a tangle of nerves, and coffee wasn’t going to fix that. Nothing was, except for bringing both Eric and Maylene into custody.Gemma looked at him when he sank back down behind his desk, and she raised an eyebrow. “What, eight cups is your limit?” she asked. She managed a slight smile to go with that.“Trying to cut back.” No smile for him, but it was light enough to ease just a bit of that tension.The strain on her face wasn’t easing anything though. Gemma had likely gotten as little sleep as he had, and she had passed on the coffee, making him wonder if she’d given up caffeine because it interfered with her usual meds.Meds that she still hadn’t taken.Maybe once this situation with Maylene was resolved, he’d be able to coax her into taking not only the meds but also a nap. Alone. He made sure he mentally repeated that to his body.His body didn’t seem to be listening though. And that was the reason he forced his attention off her and back to the report.“I got some more info on Maylene,” she said, sipping the herbal tea that she’s ordered from the diner. “She and Eric were classmates at an expensive private high school. Maylene flunked out.”Gemma turned the computer screen so he could see a picture of Maylene when she’d been a teenager, and he mentally compared it to more recent ones that he’d pulled up from DMV records and high school transcripts. She hadn’t changed much. A plain face with no makeup and straight brown hair.“I can see if they actually had classes together,” Gemma went on, “but it wasn’t a large school.”So, the pair had known each other for a while and came from similar backgrounds. Well, other than the fact that Eric had never flunked out of anything and likely wouldn’t have with his high IQ. But Maylene wasn’t stupid. After all, she had a nursing degree, so maybe there was some other reason she’d left the school. Maybe that reason was Eric.Kellan was still mulling that over when Jack came in, a tray of take-out cups in one hand and a huge box of doughnuts in the other. The box was open, and the deputies flocked to it like a mini-swarm, each of them snagging one or two as Jack said, “Help yourselves.” Once they were done, he set the box on the small table where Gemma was working.“Woman does not live by herbal tea alone.” Jack flashed her a smile and plucked another cup of tea from the holder. “There’s an apple fritter in there with your name on it.”He hadn’t been joking about that. The apple fritter did indeed have a napkin placed over it, and Gemma’s name was written on it.“Thanks.” She rose to brush a kiss on Jack’s cheek.Such a simple gesture caused Kellan’s stomach to clench. He didn’t especially want a chaste peck from Gemma, but it was a reminder that she no longer had that ease with him. No longer felt it was her right to kiss him whenever she wanted.And vice versa.“Is this some kind of bribe?” Kellan asked him when Jack put the coffee and drinks on the edge of Kellan’s desk.“No. Just lucky timing. As I was coming in, I saw Amanda pull into the parking lot. I figured a chocolate-glazed doughnut might make the visit easier to tolerate.”No. It wouldn’t. And Kellan had one thought about the woman’s visit--what the heck did she want now? He wouldn’t have long to find out because at that moment, Amanda came through the front door, her attention going straight to him.(C) Delores Fossen, 2019, Harlequin Intrigue
Deputy Owen Slater knew something was wrong the moment he stopped his truck in front of his house.
There were no lights on, not even the ones on the porch or in the upstairs window of the nursery. It was just a little past eight and that meant it was his daughter Addie’s bedtime, but she always slept with the lamp on.
If the electricity had gone off, the nanny, Francine Landry, would have almost certainly texted Owen to let him know. Besides, Owen had already spotted a light in the barn. That wasn’t unusual since the light was often left on there, but it meant the power definitely wasn’t out.
Because he was both a father and a cop, the bad thoughts came and his pulse kicked up hard and fast. Something had maybe gone wrong. Over the years, he’d made plenty of arrests, and it could be that someone wanted to get back at him. A surefire way to do that was to come here to his home, to a place where he thought he and his child were safe.
The panic came, shooting through him when he thought of his daughter being in danger. Addie was only eighteen months old, just a baby. He’d already lost her mother in childbirth and he couldn’t lose Addie, too.
That got Owen drawing his gun as he started running. He fired glances all around him in case this was an ambush, but no one came at him as he barreled up the porch steps.
The front door was slightly ajar. That was another indication that something wasn’t right. Francine always kept things locked up tight now that Addie was walking and had developed some escape skills.
Owen didn’t call out to Francine, something he desperately wanted to do with the hope he’d hear her say that everything was okay. But if he called out, it could alert someone other than the nanny. Still, he prayed that she would come rushing in to give him some account for what was happening. But no good explanation came to mind.
Owen tried to rein in his heartbeat and breathing. Hard to do, though, when the stakes were this high, but he forced himself to remember his training and experience. That meant requesting backup before he started a search of the area. He quickly texted his brother Kellan to get there ASAP so he’d have some help if needed.
The tight knot in Owen’s gut told him it would be needed.
And Kellan was the best backup Owen could ask for. Not only was he the sheriff of their hometown of Longview Ridge, he lived just two miles away. Kellan could be there in no time.
Using his elbow, Owen nudged the door open all the way and glanced around. His house had an open floor plan, so with a single sweeping glance, he could take in the living room, kitchen and dining area. Or at least he could have done that had it not been so blasted dark. There were way too many shadows. Too many places for someone to hide.
Owen flipped the light switch. Nothing. That snowballed the wildfire concerns because it meant someone could have cut off the power to the house. He doubted this was some kind of electric malfunction because if it had been, Francine would have gotten out the candles and flashlights since she was well aware of Addie’s fear of the dark.
Even though his brother would be here in minutes, Owen didn’t want to wait for him. The thought of his baby hurt and scared got him moving. With a two-handed grip on his gun, he checked behind the sofa, making sure he continued to keep watch. No one was there, so he moved to the dining room. Still no one. But he heard something.
There were footsteps upstairs. Not Addie’s toddling feet, either. These were heavy and slow, probably the way his own steps would sound if he were up there looking around. Owen turned to head in that direction in case it was Francine, but that was when he noticed the back door was open, too. And there were sounds coming from the yard.
“Shh,” someone whispered.
“We need to play the quiet game.”
Because the voice was so ragged, it took Owen a moment to realize it was Laney Martin, his ranch manager. That sent him hurrying straight to the door, and he saw Laney running toward the barn. She had Addie clutched to her chest, her hand cupping the back of the baby’s head.
Owen didn’t call out to them, but he did catch a glimpse of Laney’s face as they ducked into the barn. She was terrified. He hadn’t needed anything to up his own level of fear, but that did it. He ran across the yard and went straight into the barn. He heard another sound. Laney’s sharp gasp.
“It’s me,” Owen whispered just in case she thought it was someone else who’d followed them in there.
Laney had already moved to the far corner of the barn next to a stack of hay bales. When she shifted her position, Owen could see his baby’s face. Addie was smiling as if this were indeed a fun game. It was good that she was too young to realize the danger they were in.
“Where’s Francine?” he asked. “Is she in the house?”
Laney shook her head. “The nursing home called about her mom a half hour ago.” While her voice was level enough for him to understand her, each word had come through her panting breaths. “Francine asked me to watch Addie while she went over there to check on her.”
Francine’s mom had dementia so it wasn’t unusual for the nanny to get calls about her. However, this was the first time she’d left Addie with Laney. Maybe, though, Francine had done that because she’d known Owen would soon be home.
An intruder who’d been watching the place would have known that, too.
“Who’s in the house?” he asked.
Another head shake from Laney. “A man.”
Not that he needed it, but Owen had more confirmation of the danger. He saw that Laney had a gun, a small snub-nosed .38. It didn’t belong to him, nor was it one that he’d ever seen in the guesthouse where Laney was staying. Later, he’d ask her about it, about why she hadn’t mentioned that she had a weapon, but for now they obviously had a much bigger problem.
Owen texted this brother again, to warn him about the intruder so that Kellan didn’t walk into a situation that could turn deadly. He also asked Kellan to call in more backup. If the person upstairs started shooting, Owen wanted all the help he could get.
“What happened?” Owen whispered to Laney.
She opened her mouth, paused and then closed it as if she’d changed her mind about what to say. “About ten minutes ago, I was in the kitchen with Addie when the power went off. A few seconds later, a man came in through the front door and I hid in the pantry with her until he went upstairs.”
Smart thinking on Laney’s part to hide instead of panicking or confronting the guy. But it gave Owen an uneasy feeling that Laney could think that fast under such pressure. And then there was the gun again. Where had she gotten it? The guesthouse was on the other side of the backyard, much farther away than the barn. If she’d gone to the guesthouse to get the gun, why hadn’t she just stayed there with Addie? It would have been safer than running across the yard with the baby.
“Did you get a good look at the man?” Owen prompted.
Laney again shook her head. “But I heard him. When he stepped into the house, I knew it wasn’t you, so I guessed it must be trouble.”
Again, quick thinking on her part. He wasn’t sure why, though, that gave him a very uneasy feeling.
“I didn’t hear or see a vehicle,” Laney added.
Owen hadn’t seen one, either, which meant the guy must have come on foot. Not impossible, but Owen’s ranch was a good half mile from the main road. If this was a thief, he wasn’t going to get away with much. Plus, it would be damn brazen of some idiot to break into a cop’s home just to commit a robbery.
So what was really going on?
Owen glanced around the barn, also keeping watch on the yard in case the intruder followed them out here. Part of him wanted that to happen so he could make the piece of dirt pay for putting Addie and Laney through this.
There were no ranch hands around that he could see. Not a surprise. He ran a small operation and only had three full-time hands and Laney, who managed the place. Other than Laney, none of the others lived on the grounds. Not even Francine, since she had her own house only a couple of miles away.
He glanced at the light switch and considered turning it off, but that might only make things worse. If the intruder saw it, he would know they were in the barn, and he might come out there with guns blazing.
Owen’s phone dinged with a text message from Kellan.
(C) Delores Fossen, 2019, Harlequin Intrigue
A past tragedy destroyed their love. A vulnerable newborn brings them back together.
Within moments of discovering a baby on his doorstep, Texas Ranger Eli Slater finds himself being held at gunpoint by his ex, Ashlyn Darrow. She claims she was tipped off that the still-gorgeous cowboy kidnapped her newly adopted daughter because of the bad blood that defines their past. They quickly realize Eli’s been set up and now Eli is determined to protect Ashlyn and her daughter. But regaining her trust will be as easy as ignoring the attraction even a lifetime apart can’t erase…
From Harlequin Intrigue: Seek thrills. Solve crimes. Justice served.
Not only does Texas Ranger Eli Slater find a baby on his doorstep, he is facing the barrel of a gun held by is ex, Ashlyn Darrow. She was told Eli kidnapped her newly adopted daughter, Cora, and Eli quickly assures her that he did nothing of the sort. So, what is going on? Who took Ashlyn's daughter, and why bring Cora to Eli?
The reason begins to become clear. What is more, however, is that Ashlyn and Cora need protection. Despite the difficult past Ashlyn and Eli shared, Eli steps up. With trust being a difficult thing for either to have, all while fighting the attraction that quickly reignited, safety and protection have a tenuous hold. With Ashyln's life at risk, will the pair get the opportunity to reexamine their feelings for one another, feelings that never truly died? What about the danger, will that ever let up long enough for them to get that chance?
Just like the first two books in this exciting series by Delores Fossen, Settling an Old Score doesn't miss one minute of action. The sizzling romance indeed gets its chance, but will it prove to be something that can bring long-term happiness? I loved being drawn into this story, whether the drama, danger or romance. It all blended together remarkably well, especially as Eli and Ashlyn are forced to face their past, while never being able to look away from the danger facing them. I am more than eager to read the final book in this series, His Brand of Justice, which is very high in my review queue.
Many thanks to Harlequin Intrigue and to NetGalley for this ARC for review. This is my honest opinion.
Ashlyn knew it would take more luck to pin Dominick down on that. Especially if he had in-deed hired those gunmen.As soon as Kellan walked out, Eli took hold of her hand and moved her out of the doorway. Out of view from the windows, too. She hadn’t needed a reminder of the danger, but that gave her one any-way.“There are too many puzzle pieces,” she said. “In the meantime, you and I—maybe Cora, too—are in the crosshairs of a killer.”He didn’t argue with her. Couldn’t. Because it was true, a frustration that they both felt. That frustration was in every muscle of his body when he pulled her into his arms. As he’d done in the kitchen, he brushed a kiss on the top of her head. A kiss of comfort.And it worked.Ashlyn could practically feel some of the tension slide right out of her. Of course, the heat came in its place. No surprise there. She’d been dealing with it for much too long.He pulled back just a little and looked down at her with those smoky gray eyes. They weren’t stormy now but had some of the same fire that she was certain was in her own.“Yeah,” he said as if he’d known exactly what she was thinking—and feeling. “If we were still in high school, I would just coax you into taking a trip out to my truck. That won’t work this time, though.”“No.” Since he could be dangerous. And also since sex should be the last thing on their minds. But Ashlyn wanted to make this moment a little lighter than spelling out those reminders. “Because we’re sensible adults now.”The corner of his mouth lifted, causing a dimple to flash in his cheek. Yes, a dimple. It was another weapon in the arsenal of Eli Slater, hot cowboy. But the smile didn’t last long.“Soon, we’re going to have a brief talk about this,” Eli drawled, his voice all smoke and heat. “And then we’ll deal with it. I’ve got some ideas as to how we can do that.”Now she smiled, and even though she figured it was a mistake, Ashlyn brushed her mouth over his. Again, not a full-fledged kiss, but it could have qualified as foreplay. Short foreplay.
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