He lost his K9 partner.
He almost lost his will to live.
But when a ruthless killer targets a woman on the run, Theo and his new K9 companion will do whatever it takes to survive—and save the woman neither can live without.
Grieving the death of his partner, Theo Bosco has no room in his life for distractions. Though his instincts scream that he should avoid Juliet ‘Jules’ Jackson, he can’t seem to stay away. It doesn’t help that Theo’s new K9 companion has fallen head over paws with Jules’s rambunctious family.
Or that when he’s with her, Theo finally knows peace.
When Jules rescued her siblings, whisking them away to the safety of the beautifully rugged Colorado Rockies, she never expected to catch the eye—or the heart—of a cop. Yet as Jules struggles to fight her growing attraction to the brooding K9 officer, another threat lurks much closer to home…
And this time, there’s no escape.
Check out the exclusive excerpt below!
Jules stepped onto the porch, followed closely by Viggy. The dog—his dog, the one that ran off and forced him to visit Jules in the middle of the night—stretched out on one side of the entrance. Closing the front door behind them, Jules took a couple of steps to the front of the porch, closer to Theo. The wind whipped her hair around her face and plastered her sleep shorts to her body in a very enticing way. Theo tried not to look obviously eager as he joined her, but he was pretty sure he failed at that. He did take the six porch steps in two strides, after all.
Once he was standing next to her, Theo was at a loss. Even before he’d disappeared into a cloud of rage, talking to women had never been his strong point. Now, faced with Jules in all her sleep-mussed glory, Theo had nothing. His mind was a blank.
“I thought he was a serial killer,” Jules blurted.
He was so grateful to her for breaking the silence that it took a second for her words to make sense. Except, even then, they didn’t make sense. “Who?”
“You thought my dog was a serial killer?”
“It was dark!” she protested, starting to laugh. “A strange noise woke me up, and then something moved in the trees, so I went outside, and then Viggy ran toward me and scared the holy spit out of me.”
“The holy spit?” he teased, before the rest of what she’d told him registered, and all humor left him. “Wait. You thought you saw someone, so you went outside to check?”
Jules winced, ducking her head and peeking at him through a silky fall of hair. Theo tried not to focus on how she even made cringing cute. “I know. It was stupid.”
That made her frown. “It wasn’t that stupid. I mean, it wasn’t really a serial killer. What if I’d called 9-1-1? Cops would’ve arrived, gun blazing, and all for Viggy.”
No one made him smile as much as she did. No one else made him smile at all. He pretended to scratch his nose in order to hide it. “Guns blazing?”
Just like that, her temper was gone, and she was laughing again. “Don’t you mock my colorful vernacular, Officer Bosco!”
“I just don’t think I’ve ever done anything with my gun blazing. What does that even mean?”
“I’m not sure. But it does sound very dramatic.”
“Yes. That too.”
Her laughter faded, leaving them in a weighted silence. “So Viggy is your dog, then? I thought you said he was your partner’s?”
“He was.” A wash of grief ran through him, erasing any traces of laughter. “He was Don Baker’s dog.”
“Was?” she asked tentatively, looking at him in a way that made him feel like he could tell her anything, anything at all, and she’d get it. She’d get him. Jules settled onto the top step, patting the spot next to her.
As he struggled to find the words, Theo sat down next to her. “Don was my partner, my friend…more than that. He was like a dad to me.” His throat got tight, making it hard to continue, but he forced out the words. It seemed important, somehow, for Jules to know this, for Jules to know him—the real him, not the angry mess he’d become. “He killed himself two months ago.”
Her breath caught, her hand flying up to cover her mouth. “Oh no. I’m so sorry!” Her free hand reached out and caught his. As she squeezed, he braced for the flare of anger to hit him, for the need to escape to overwhelm him, but it never did. Instead, he felt relief, as if telling her about Don had opened up something inside him, allowing all the anger and pain to escape.
“Since I lost my K9 partner to cancer last year, Hugh assigned Viggy to me. It’s been…tough.” Theo almost laughed at the understatement.
“He seems to be doing better, though,” she said, still holding tight to his hand. “You both do.”
Sometimes it felt that way, but other times all the frustration and rage and grief threatened to drown him. It felt right to tell Jules, though. He’d known her for such a short time, but there was something about her—and her whole family—that settled him, brought him peace.
Jules’s fingers tightened around his again, and he looked down at her. His blood instantly started to warm. Peace wasn’t the only thing she made him feel. He squeezed her hand as he studied her, feeling as if he could look at her all night and not get bored. Everything about her was beautiful—her eyes, her cheeks, her laugh, the smooth fall of her hair, her mouth…especially her mouth.
Theo couldn’t stop staring at her. At first, her full lips were curled up at the corners in a sympathetic smile, and then they grew serious, parting slightly. His breath stopped, his lungs stalling out and refusing to work anymore. He shifted toward her, unable to resist. It felt as if there was an invisible but powerful thread connecting them, reeling him closer. The wind gusted, tossing her hair across her face again.
Jules reached up a hand, but Theo beat her to it. He caught the stray strands, tucking them behind her ear. In the process, his fingertips just barely grazed over her cheekbone and around the shell of her ear. Her skin was cool, and goose bumps rose on her arms.
Frowning, Theo let his hand drop. Her gaze followed it down and then found his face again. Her breaths were coming quick and light, and the rise and drop of her chest was extremely distracting. Shoving away his confusing jumble of emotion for the moment, he released her hand so he could pull his hoodie over his head. Jules was staring at his stomach, making Theo realize the movement had made his T-shirt ride up, exposing his abs. He tugged it back down, loving how Jules’s face dropped in obvious disappointment when his skin was no longer showing. She shivered again, and he remembered what he’d been about to do.
“Here,” he said quietly, lifting the sweatshirt so he could put it on over her head. “You’re cold.”
She raised her arms once she realized what he intended, allowing the “Monroe Police Department” sweatshirt to envelope her, the bottom hem falling to the porch floor, the fabric puddling around her hips. For some reason, Theo liked seeing her in his sweatshirt. He decided he’d give it to her. That way, during the long, lonely, sleepless nights, he could imagine her wearing it.
A surge of heat ran through him, and he cleared his throat, trying to refocus. “Warmer?”
“Much.” Her voice was throaty, lending the word a secondary meaning, one Theo wasn’t sure was intentional or not. Either way, it brought his attention back to her mouth. This time, when he leaned closer, there was no chilled skin to distract him. His gaze was locked on her and hers on him, and he could see she felt the same pull of the invisible thread, that same irresistible tug that linked them together.
It didn’t matter then whether he had the right thing to say. Silence was fine.
Fraction of an inch by fraction of an inch, he came closer and closer, until he was enveloped in her scent—spicy vanilla—and her heat and the puffs of excited air that warmed his throat.
Finally, he was there.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
A fan of the old adage “write what you know,” Katie Ruggle lived in an off-grid, solar- and wind-powered house in the Rocky Mountains until her family lured her back to Minnesota. When she’s not writing, Katie rides horses, shoots guns (not while riding, although that would be awesome), cross-country skis (badly) and travels to warm places where she can scuba dive. A graduate of the Police Academy, Katie received her ice-rescue certification and can attest that the reservoirs in the Colorado mountains really are that cold. A fan of anything that makes her feel like a bad-ass, she has trained in Krav Maga, boxing and gymnastics.