Are you ready for some steamy romance and suspense? Take off your shoes, put your feet up, and enjoy this excerpt from Katie Ruggle's forthcoming book, "Fan the Flames".
When she’s not writing, Katie Ruggle rides horses, shoots guns, and travels to warm places where she can SCUBA dive. Graduating from the Police Academy, Katie received her ice-rescue certification and can attest that the reservoirs in the Colorado mountains really are that cold. While she still misses her off-grid, solar- and wind-powered house in the Rocky Mountains, she now lives in Rochester, Minnesota near her family.
Find Katie online:
Wandering over to her fridge, she frowned as she pulled out some leftover soup. Normally, she enjoyed this part of her day, when work was done, the animals were warm and safe, and she could unwind in the peace of her underground bunker. This evening, though, Rory felt unsettled.
She blamed Ian Walsh.
As she absently heated the soup on the stove, she thought back to how idiotically she’d acted with him at the shop. They’d been friends for years. Why was she still getting panicky and stupid in his presence? She was twenty-five, too old to keep hanging on to an adolescent crush.
But Ian was just… He was so…
Rory realized her hand not stirring the soup was rubbing her breastbone, as if to assuage the ache beneath it. She quickly lowered her arm to her side, hating how a visit from Ian left her raw, stripping away her usual contentment and leaving only loneliness in its place.
A steady beeping made her drop her spoon, splashing the broth over the side of the pan. Rory frowned as she turned off the burner and hurried over to the desk in the corner of the living room. There, the monitor displayed footage recorded by the security cameras scattered around her property.
When she’d taken over the gun shop three years ago, she’d had some trouble. For the first time in her life, she’d actually been grateful for her late parents’ rampant paranoia. She’d even added on to the security system after the local militia group tried to break into the shop. A few flash-bang grenades and a carefully placed rifle shot that had knocked their ringleader’s weapon from his hand had sent the would-be burglars fleeing into the night. Although Rory sold guns to the militia members who’d sheepishly returned to her shop—this time as paying customers during regular business hours—she never forgot the lesson they’d taught her. She was young and small and female, and there were some who’d always see her as an easy mark sitting on a pile of guns.
A pile of guns they’d be only too happy to shoot her to get.
The alarm had been triggered at the front gate, so she pulled up the live feed from Camera Three. As she scanned the screen, a human-shaped shadow darted out of camera range. Inhaling sharply, she jerked back from the monitor. Despite her worries, she’d honestly thought she’d see a mule deer or a fox, not a person. Her heart pounded as she shifted to Camera Seven, which was aimed along the west boundary fence. She couldn’t see anything except for grainy snowdrifts.
Reaching for the mouse, she rewound the video twenty seconds. Her knee bounced as adrenaline rushed through her. Although she was always prepared for the worst, she hadn’t really expected it. Rory watched the playback with her nose almost touching the screen, but she still couldn’t tell if the shadow was a person or just that—a shadow. Since the alarm had sounded, she decided to assume it was a person. Plus, her gut was screaming at her, telling her that someone was out there—someone looking for trouble.
Opening the desk drawer, she pulled out her baby, a Colt Python .357 Magnum revolver with a six-inch barrel. It was as accurate as Rory could aim, had a soft kick, and was just plain pretty, with its mirror-shined, stainless-steel finish. As soon as she wrapped her fingers around the grip, her nerves settled slightly. Jack watched her, his ears pricked and eyes alert.
“Let’s see who came to visit,” she said, surprised by her calm voice when her insides were all jittery. As she moved toward the stairs, Jack followed with an eager whine. She flicked off the lights in the living room but didn’t turn on the stair light. Instead, she moved through the darkness. Even as her feet found their way with the ease of long familiarity, the utter blackness made her imagination go wild. All sorts of boogeymen hid in the lightless spaces around her, making her jump at the sound of her foot scuffing against a stair.
Despite the way her fingers itched to reach for a light switch, she kept her hands firmly at her sides. The front of the shop had glass block lining the tops of the walls to allow natural light to enter. Although she’d be opening the door in the enclosed back room, she didn’t want to chance any light seeping out and alerting her intruder that she was on the move. Panic was her enemy. She needed to keep calm and do what she needed to do with a clear head.
At the top of the stairs, she paused to check the monitor set to the left of the steel door. The screen was divided into four sections, each showing a different angle of the shop, front and back. Everything looked quiet, so she unfastened the deadbolt locks with shaking fingers and let herself into the back room, closing the steel door and pushing the camouflaging shelving back into place.
After disabling the alarm, she took a minute to slide into her coat and hat. Her aim wouldn’t be improved if she was shivering with cold, as well as nerves. She picked up a small flashlight from the shelf by the door and slid it into her left coat pocket before she unbolted the multiple locks on the back door and slipped outside, Jack close on her heels.
The wind slapped her immediately, peppering her exposed skin with sharp flecks of snow. She tucked her hands in her pockets, her right one still holding the Python, and her left fingers wrapped around the flashlight.
Instead of heading for the front gate, she followed the line of pine trees past the greenhouse and chicken coop, allowing the shadows to help hide her from any watchful eyes. Her footfalls were almost silent, except for the slightest crunch as her boots compressed the frozen snow, and her heartbeat was thudding in her ears. Deep, even breaths didn’t help. As much as she didn’t want to admit it, Rory was flat-out scared. She may have been prepared and well-armed, but she was just one person sitting on an arsenal every criminally minded group in the area would kill to get their hands on.
The waxing moon was almost at the halfway point, casting an eerie blue light that was reflected by the windblown drifts of snow. She circled around the pole barn that housed her vehicles but then hesitated, reluctant to leave the shelter of the trees for the more dubious cover of the wooden walls. Fifty feet separated the pole barn from the west fence line—fifty feet of exposure, fifty feet in which she’d present a clear target to anyone hiding in the trees beyond the fence.
Her fingers tightened around the grip of her revolver. She needed to move. She could imagine her father’s disappointment if he were still alive, the impatient push he’d give her to break her paralysis. Shaking off all thoughts of militia snipers and fatal gunshot wounds, Rory forced herself into the open space surrounding the pole barn.
That first step was the hardest. Keeping her body low, she moved quickly but quietly, as she’d been taught, until she was standing in the narrow moon shadow cast by the pole barn. The darkness that pooled around the pines could easily hide someone—or multiple someones—from view. Rory waited, trying to be patient, her eyes trained on the line of trees. Nothing moved. Besides the wind, there was no sound. The human-shaped shadow in the camera feed started to feel more and more like a figment of her paranoid brain.
Her heart didn’t agree, though. If anything, it beat even faster.
In the remote Rocky Mountains, lives depend on the Search & Rescue brotherhood. But in a place this far off the map, trust is hard to come by and secrets can be murder...
As a Motorcycle Club member and firefighter, Ian Walsh is used to riding the line between the good guys and the bad. He may owe the Club his life, but his heart rests with his fire station brothers...and with the girl he's loved since they were kids, Rory Sorenson. Ian would do anything for Rory. He'd die for her. Kill for her. Defend her to his last breath-and he may just have to.
Every con in the Rockies knows Rory is the go-to girl for less-than-legal firearms, and for the past few years, she's managed to keep the peace between dangerous factions by remaining strictly neutral. But when she defends herself against a brutal attack, Rory finds herself catapulted into the center of a Motorcycle Club war-with only Ian standing between her and a threat greater than either of them could have imagined.
Search and Rescue:
On His Watch (novella)
Hold Your Breath
Fan the Flames
Gone too Deep
In Safe Hands
Series: Search & Rescue #2
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Release Date: June 7, 2016
Formats: paperback, ebook
Buying Links: Amazon* | ARe* | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository* | iBooks* | Kobo
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