But when a frightened woman bursts into his life, Hugh and his K9 companion have no choice but to risk everything to keep her safe.
The sole witness to a horrific crime, Kaylee Ramay flees to the Colorado Rockies to start a new life. There she becomes Grace, a dog kennel employee desperately trying to avoid attention—especially from dangerously attractive K9 Officer Hugh Murdoch.
Because Hugh is tall, dark…and nothing but trouble.
Hugh is anxious to get back in the field after an act of heroism left him warming the bench.
Until then, he and his K9 partner Lexi spend their hours teasing the town’s mysterious newcomer. But when their simmering attraction is nearly cut short by a sniper’s bullet, Hugh’s mystery woman must come clean about the secrets she keeps…
Or both of them will pay the price.
Check out our exclusive excerpt below!
Although Grace didn’t want to try on flannel jeans—or really any of the practical secondhand clothes piled in her arms—a huff of laughter escaped her as she moved into the dressing room. After sorting through the clothes, she had to admit that they weren’t bad. She was just being stubborn because a part of her didn’t want to get new things. There were perfectly good clothes sitting in her condo that she couldn’t access because Martin Jovanovic had chased her out of her home, forcing her to share a bathroom with five other people and buy clothes at a thrift store that smelled ever so slightly of mothballs and mildew.
Stiffening her shoulders, she commanded herself to stop being a whiny baby. For now, she needed to suck it up. She was alive, and that was what mattered. Grabbing the flannel-lined jeans, she gave them a hard look.
“This isn’t going to be fun for either of us,” she told the pants, “but this is what needs to happen, so we’re going to have to make the best of it.”
She started to unbutton her hastily purchased Walmart jeans, but a sound made her freeze. The noise had been faint, just a slight hiss of breath, but it had come from the other side of the dressing room curtain—as if someone was pressed close, listening.
Without moving, she strained to hear more. There was only silence, but she swore she could feel someone’s presence. In her gut, she knew someone was right outside her dressing room.
It’s just Jules, she told herself, but she didn’t believe it. Jules wouldn’t linger like that, hovering so close and quiet. In fact, Grace was fairly certain that Jules was physically incapable of not talking for more than a few seconds. If Jules had been on the other side of the curtain, she would’ve been peppering Grace with questions about how the clothes fit and if she should grab a few more coats.
Grace’s thoughts began to jump around like popcorn. Had Martin found her already? Was it one of his lackeys, ready to take her out the second she emerged? She wasn’t sure if she could actually hear someone breathing, or if her imagination was determined to freak her out.
Buttoning the top button of her jeans again, Grace reached for the edge of the curtain. She had to look. It was far worse not knowing who—if anyone—was silently standing there, watching her. It annoyed her how pale and uncertain her hand looked as she extended it. Her fingers closed around the rough fabric, but then she paused.
Just open it, she ordered herself. Rip it open and get it over with. Taking a deep breath, she yanked the curtain to the side.
No one was there.
Her gaze scanned the open space, finding Jules on the other side looking at books with Dee. The three boys were in a huddle around a table covered with hand tools. The woman at the counter looked as if she might be taking a quick nap in her chair. Grace took several steps out of the dressing room so she could see the entrance to the store.
The door was closing. Grace hurried to the front, jerking open the door and rushing outside, only to crash into someone. With a startled yelp, she tried to stumble backward, but the person grabbed her upper arms. He’s here! He found me! Immediate panic hazed her mind, and she began struggling against her captor’s hold.
“Grace, it’s okay. You’re safe. It’s just me.”
It wasn’t Martin’s voice. Her vision cleared and her heart rate slowed as her terror eased. Tipping her head up, she looked into Hugh’s concerned face. Relief warred with embarrassment, and she stepped backward. This time, he let her go, although his hands stayed up, as if to grab her again if she looked like she was going to fall.
“Fine.” Flustered, she raised a hand to push her hair over her shoulder, saw how much her fingers was shaking, and lowered her hand back to her side. She suddenly remembered why she’d come outside before Hugh had scared the spit out of her. Looking around, she didn’t see any other people except for the two of them. The street was just as deserted as it had been earlier, but her skin burned as if a thousand pairs of eyes were watching her every move. Sunlight reflected off the windows of the buildings across the street, making it impossible to see inside. Grace wrapped her arms around herself and turned back to Hugh. “Did you see anyone come out of the store?”
His gaze sharpened, changing from general concern to focused interest. “Just you, but I was putting some things in my truck, so my back was turned for a few minutes.” He waved at a red pickup—one that looked old in a ready-for-the-junkyard way, rather than in a classic-car-show way—parked behind Jules’s SUV. A shepherd-type dog sat in the passenger seat, watching them with huge, pricked ears. “Why?”
“No reason.” A rustling sound made her jerk her head around, but it was only the wind making leaves dance across the road.
“Uh-huh,” Hugh said, not sounding as if he believed her. “Was someone bothering you in there?”
She wasn’t sure how to answer that. Although she would’ve sworn she heard someone outside her dressing room, she was starting to think that she was imagining things. After all, the past several days would’ve messed with almost anyone’s sanity. Since she didn’t want to consider that she couldn’t trust her own senses, she changed the subject. “What are you doing out here?”
“Just…more errands.” For the first time since she’d met him, Hugh didn’t answer with his usual cocky confidence. Instead, his gaze darted to the side as he slid his hands in his pockets, looking like a strangely appealing combination of naughty boy and confident man. He snuck a glance at her, and she raised an eyebrow, making him huff and swing a hand toward the pickup. “My truck’s right there. I had to walk by here to get to it.”
“Uh-huh.” She echoed his skeptical sound from earlier. “Do we need to have the stalking-is-bad talk again?”
“I’m a cop, not a stalker,” he said with exaggerated patience. “I arrest stalkers.”
“Might want to check out your house.”
She smirked. “It’s looking a little see-through and glassy to me.”
“Glass house? Throwing stones?”
Lips pursed, he eyed her for several seconds. “You’re not very good at telling jokes.”
“I’m an excellent joke teller!” Grace huffed.
The door opened behind her. “Grace?” Jules said tentatively. “You okay?”
As Grace turned toward the store, she realized that her fear had disappeared. Hugh might be one of the most aggravating people she’d ever met in her life, but he’d made her forget for just a moment that her life was a terrifying, out-of-control horror movie.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
When she’s not writing, KATIE RUGGLE rides horses, shoots guns, and trains her three dogs. A police academy graduate, Katie readily admits she’s a forensics nerd. While she still misses her off-grid home in the Rocky Mountains, she now lives in a 150-year-old Minnesota farmhouse near her family.