Anguished over his father’s lack of morals, Deputy Blade Beringer struggles to conquer self-doubts. When he and his K9 partner Rambo arrive in the mountains of northern Idaho, Blade is faced with a band of white supremacists, a homicide investigation, and a murder cold case, not to mention the task of training a gorgeous blond rookie.
Trainee Brandy Wilcox is bent on clearing her mother’s name of a wrongful murder conviction. While working the homicide investigation with her sexy new training officer, she discovers a connection between the victim and her mother’s case. The two deputies struggle to resist their mutual attraction and abide by the no-fraternizing rules, but passion blazes and teeters on the brink of love. With a killer targeting them and danger lurking at every turn, Brandy doubts their love can blossom, especially when she puts Officer Skip Coogan—Blade’s best friend and father figure—at the top of her suspect list.
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Brandy’s trigger finger twitched. A bead of sweat tickled its way down her backbone. She was inexperienced, off duty, and miles from her truck, which sat near a trailhead in the mountainous wilderness of northern Idaho, and the intruder she held at gunpoint probably had seventy muscled pounds on her.
She studied the cowboy’s sweet-as-honey, wicked-as-sin smile through the sights of her department-issued Remington semiautomatic rifle. From his pose on the rickety porch of the old log cabin, he assessed her right back. His full lips tugged across Crest-white teeth, exposing a small but sexy gap between his central incisors.
He tipped his head toward the jimmied-open window. “I know this looks bad, Ma’am, but I can explain,” he drawled out “Ma’am” again.
“Deputy Sheriff Brandy Wilcox. Keep your hands where I can see them.”
“Brandy?” Impervious to the deputy sheriff title, he straightened and angled his dusty black Stetson over his forehead so the brim shadowed his cool-water eyes. “Name like that could make a man real thirsty.”
Brandy had heard just about every come-on in the book, but never from a trespasser on the business end of her rifle. She calculated his over-confident grin, the twinkle in his eyes, the tilt of his head—blond curly hair no less. A sensual package that promised a ride on the wild side—if one was so inclined. Which she was not.
Yet something primal tugged deep in her stomach.
Bracing the Remington more firmly against her shoulder, she steadied her aim and revved up her grit. This guy was banking on his wild smile a little too heavily. What he needed was some taming.
“Okay, drop ‘em.”
When he lowered his arms, she said, “Not your hands, your pants.”
For several beats, he stared at her like he hadn’t heard.
“Lose your Levis,” she urged again. She had no desire to shoot him, but she didn’t have handcuffs on her and she wasn’t about to chance his getting away. If it came to a footrace, his long muscular legs could outrun her in a heartbeat. But he couldn’t get far stomping barefoot in his skivvies through the mountainous shale-scabbed terrain. Not that making a break for it was something she intended to let him try.
“Excuse me? You want me to strip?” A trill of elation noticeably brightened his whisky-smooth voice. His expression bounced between “this is my lucky day” and disbelief.
“You got it. And while you’re at it, you can get rid of the shirt too.”
The fine lines defining his too-blue eyes crinkled as his expression turned sultry, and charisma dripped off his broad shoulders like summer rain over mountain granite.
Charisma, hell. That would get him exactly nowhere with her. “Necessary precaution. I wouldn’t want you trying to mosey off.” Not before she could engage an on-duty deputy to make an arrest.
She may have looked as young and inexperienced as she was, but she was physically and mentally tougher than her feminine five-foot-four frame suggested. She could outshoot and outthink every cadet in her graduating class at the police academy.
Revenge had a way of empowering a woman.
Despite her upbringing, she’d beaten the odds. She was making something of herself, and she wasn’t about to be intimidated by this guy and his toothpaste poster-boy smile, nor the blond, sweat-soaked curls straggling across his collar. Or the pumped biceps stretching the fabric of his shirtsleeves.
“I’m still waiting.”
“You’re serious?” He eyed the lettering on her I’m a Redneck Woman T-shirt, a fifty-cent find at Goodwill. “I usually like to get to know a woman a little before taking my clothes off and having a good time.” The dazzle of his smile cranked the charisma meter several notches higher.
“I can assure you, you won’t be having a good time.” Smart ass.
“That’s debatable. I’m already enjoying this more than you can imagine.”
Too eagerly, his fingers began tugging open his shirt buttons, revealing a deep triangle of bronzed skin dusted with tawny chest hair. More sun-kissed eye candy than she was ready to cope with.
As he slid buttons through buttonholes, her gaze skidded to a stop on abs honed like corrugated steel. She tore her glance upward only to meet those unnerving eyes, speckles of light glinting in the azure pools.
As he reached for the fastener on the waistband of his slim-fit 510’s, the heat blooming on Brandy’s cheeks slid south. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all. Still, he couldn’t run far in his underwear. Seconds ticked by. Golden sunbeams gleamed off beads of sweat on muscles she didn’t really want to notice, but her attention was completely captured by the liquid heat trickling down his chest. She worked harder to convince herself the quiver in her gut came from adrenaline not feminine hormones. At any moment, her survival instincts and training would take over and stop this ridiculous sensual reaction to him. “Turn around and take off your boots.”
“My boots?” The first sign of indignation crept into his voice. “Brandy, Honey, I think you’re making a big mistake. Did you ever hear of fairness in apprehension?”
“You sound experienced.” Obviously, this wasn’t his first tangle with the law. “Have you heard of justification of lethal force? Consider yourself lucky that I didn’t shoot first and ask questions later. Now turn around and get to work on those boots.”
“What about my Miranda rights? Or the proposition that a man’s innocent until proven guilty?” he asked even as he followed orders and pivoted, presenting her with a view of his equally impressive backside.
But rather than shucking off his well-worn snakeskin Justins, he removed his shirt and slowly slid his belt through the loops, making a sensual striptease out of the movements.
The cotton fabric of Brandy’s T-shirt dampened, and her concentration started to wane. Not because the temperature was flirting with triple digits and the August sun had bullied every cloud from the sky. The blame rested on blue eyes that had messed with her thermostat.
She cleared her throat. “The arresting officer will read you your rights. For now, I’d get to work on those boots if I were you.”
“You want to separate me from my boots, you’re going to have to do it yourself.” His back still to her, he planted his scuffed heels firmly on the cabin’s splintered porch boards and glanced over his shoulder.
“On the other hand, if you’re really interested in seeing what’s under my jeans, I’m all yours, Honey. I do love a redneck woman.”
Her heart hammered against the fabric of the particular T-shirt she wished she hadn’t selected that morning, which was clinging to her chest like shrink wrap. The Gretchen Wilson song title had made her laugh out loud when she’d come across the tee on the bargain table at the Goodwill store, and because it was a ridiculously outrageous tag for Brandy Wilcox, she’d bought it as a joke.
As she pondered her purchase mistake of the year, wind-tossed grit scratched her throat. Expelling a slow, controlled breath, she dipped into the pocket of her jeans for her cell phone. “You have the right to remain silent in the face of any questions that might be put to you.” With hardly a waver in her voice, she added, “Do you understand?”
For untold sun-blistered seconds, he exercised his right to remain silent. She steadied the rifle, her finger alongside the trigger, and flipped her phone open with her free hand. Glanced down to read the screen. The blank, dead screen.
In the pristine silence, the sound of a zipper rasped.
Lord. Way too much sinewy, masculine muscle made her insides twist. The heat index rose to equator level. Before Mr. Totally Ripped revealed the answer to the age old question “boxers or briefs,” Brandy choked out, “Hold it right there.”
Jeans hanging low on his hips, he swiveled and faced her. “So, Brandy, what are you doing roaming around out here all by yourself?”
She narrowed her eyes and tightened her grip on the rifle. “Maintaining my sharp-shooter’s status.”
A muscle in his cheek twitched. “Maybe you should put down that rifle before you accidentally kill someone. Namely me. It would be ill advised for a deputy to shoot a suspect merely on probable cause. That could get said deputy in a lot of trouble. Guaranteed.”
“If I take you down, Mister, it won’t be any accident, and it won’t necessarily kill you.”
His tongue played sexily over the sweat collecting on the indentation above his upper lip. “You’re that good, huh?”
Double entendre intended—she was sure. Definitely too sexy for his Stetson.
“Good enough to put a hole in your hat and a crease in your skull without turning you into a pulseless, non-breathing suspect. I don’t think you want to chance that. It would smart a whole lot. Guaranteed.”
“That’s some mighty big talk for such a little lady.” The grin that tilted the corner of his mouth irritated more than intimidated her.
“A little lady with a big gun that could put a crease just about anywhere I choose.” She lowered the barrel of the rifle and set her aim in the vicinity of his zipper. “That’d smart a whole lot more. Absolutely guaranteed.”
It warmed her heart when he came to his senses and reined in his smile.
About Mal Olson
Mal Olson writes adrenaline kicked romantic suspense. She enjoys skydiving, ski jumping, SCUBA, hang gliding, big wave surfing, car racing, mountain climbing—that is, vicariously through her characters, who are always kick-ass, and often boss her around rather than allowing her to spin her stories the way she intends. (She did, however, personally engage in zip lining this past summer.)
Her debut novel Shadow of Deceit, released by The Wild Rose Press in 2012, is an edge of the seat romantic suspense-thriller set in Milwaukee and parts of northern Wisconsin. A couple of her favorite reviews came from Beverly at The Wormhole, who said, “Wow! This one has it all! Non-stop action, hot and sexy characters, betrayal, smokin’ romance, and a thrilling plot–” and Gothic Mom’s Book Review, which stated, “In the 150+ books that I read per year, there are very few that receive a five star rating. Shadow of Deceit did just that. Non stop action, sexual tension, an adventure that had me on the edge of my seat…A fantastic book that had me from page one…”
Olson also offers two short stories. Danger Zone, which has spent months in the Kindle top 100 free romantic suspense category, is a guaranteed fifteen minute pulse pounder where two strangers survive a rock ‘n roll landing on an icy Milwaukee runway and chase a could-be terrorist into the danger zone. Me and Brad, a feel good romance, features an irresistible K-9 and was ranked in the Kindle free top 100 list for months in the Contemporary Romance category.