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He brought danger to her doorstep...
Shot and bleeding, cowboy cop turned U.S. Marshal Gabriel McBride had nowhere to go, no one else he trusted except the very woman who wanted nothing to do with him. Tracking a fugitive, he'd been ambushed by a hit man. A hit man he'd unwittingly brought straight to Alessandra Norris. It had been the risks he'd taken, the secrets he'd kept, that had broken them apart. And now Alessandra was right in the thick of them, fleeing into the Black Hills with a rifle scope aimed at her back and a rogue marshal at her side. But the gravest danger came from McBride himself—a man whom she'd never stopped loving....
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Growing up, romance always had a strong appeal for Jenna Ryan, but romantic suspense was the perfect fit. She tried out a number of different careers, but writing has always been her one true love. That and her longtime partner, Rod. Inspired from book to book by her sister Kathy, she lives in a rural setting fifteen minutes from the city of Victoria, British Columbia. She loves reader feedback. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Jenna Ryan on Facebook.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
The bullet that knocked U.S. marshal Gabriel McBride into the giant boulder caught him just below the left shoulder. Close enough to his heart to be a problem—if he 'd actually believed he had a heart. He felt the blood and—hell, yes—the pain, but no way was he going to fold up and die because some low–life hit man had gotten lucky.
He estimated the distance from the boulder to the road, waited until the next spectacular fork of lightning faded, then, using the darkness as a cover, ran for his truck.
Once inside, he drew a deep, grimacing breath and checked the wound. His jacket and shirt were soaked. With blood as much as rain, he suspected. Which rendered his next decision moot. He was approximately ten miles from Rapid City, South Dakota, shot and disinclined to call the people he should for help. That only left one option. Alessandra.
Fighting pain that speared white–hot through his arm and torso, he got the engine started. In spite of everything, a faint smile flitted across his lips. Alessandra would either cure him or kill him. Only she and God knew which way it would go.
Maybe he knew, too, but his thoughts were beginning to haze, so when he pictured his beyond beautiful veterinarian ex holding a scalpel, she wasn't necessarily using it to dig a bullet from his body.
Swinging the truck off the road one–handed, McBride relied on his memory rather than the headlights to guide him through the murk. A vivid flash of lightning had him swearing and pivoting left. He 'd almost slammed into one of the rocks that lined the mountain road.
Concentrate, he told himself, and not on scalpels or death. It was three miles to the highway, another six to Alessandra's door. With luck, he'd spot his quarry on the way and find the strength to haul him in. Without it, big sister's hit man would cut him off and finish the job he 'd started.
Swiping his good forearm over his face, McBride let both hit man and quarry go, fought the dizziness that wanted to sweep in and consume him and focused on Alessandra.
If tonight was his last night on earth, he wanted to die with her in his head. As she had been since he 'd wedged aside a mangled piece of metal on a crumpled northbound bus and encountered her stunning gold eyes.
"You could do worse, much worse, than date my nephew." Alessandra Norris's assistant, Joan, tapped the veterinary clinic's laptop. "By the way, how do you spell the dog's last name?"
On her knees, Alessandra smiled. "You're joking." She gave the black–and–tan German shepherd a quick scratch behind the ears before palpating his kidneys. "You can spell Phoenix, but not Smith?"
"It's been a long day." Joan's blue eyes rose to the fluttering overhead light. "Storm's getting worse, and this pooch is as healthy as Rin Tin Tin in his prime. Why was his owner so insistent we check him out tonight?"
"Because he just bought the dog, and the two of them are heading south tomorrow."
"Not in that rattly old truck they rolled up in, they're not."
"The truck's borrowed. They're going by bus." Her assistant's eyebrows rose. "He's taking a dog on a bus?"
"Hey, I didn't make the plans."
"You don't ride buses, either." Joan gave her a look. "My sister and I are taking our usual tour bus trip to Las Vegas this fall. It's fun. You'd meet lots of interesting people. That's people, Alessandra, not dogs. Every year we encourage you to come, and every year you say no." She shook an accusing finger. "When you've got a phobia, you should march right up and spit in its eye."
Alessandra listened to the dog's heart. "Beat's good." Then she removed her stethoscope and scratched the animal's chin. "I almost got killed riding a bus, Joan. You know that."
"But you didn't, and in the end, you wound up meeting your husband."
"Soon to be ex–husband."
Standing, Alessandra stretched out her lower back muscles. "Is there some reason we're having this conversation at ten o'clock at night, in the middle of a storm that's going to knock the power out and probably screw up half of tomorrow's appointments?"
"Tomorrow's Saturday. You're off. Doc Lang'll be stuck with any post–storm problems. Now, I want a commitment. Either you agree to come to Las Vegas with me and Lottie, or, come September, you get yourself
ready to meet my nephew. McBride'll sign those divorce papers eventually. When he does, you'll be footloose and fancy free." Alessandra's sixty–year–old assistant slitted a shrewd eye. "That's what you want, isn't it? To be done with what was so you can move on to what will be?"
Alessandra hooked the lead onto Phoenix's collar. The dog had a flecked white mark in the shape of an arrow on his back. Her childhood dog, a brown lab, had had a mushroom–shaped mark that ran from its ears to the— Whoa! Where on earth had that memory come from? she wondered. Unless it was part of a much bigger memory involving a bus trip gone bad, a childhood home left behind and a future ex.
Shaking it off, she patted the German shepherd's butt. "Are you this pushy with Dr. Lang?"
"I'll be worse than pushy if he leaves his wife of fifty years."
"McBride and I were together for less than a tenth of that time."
"Your math's off, Alessandra. You and McBride met seven years ago, back when he was a cop."
"And the memories keep on coming." Opening the door to the reception area, Alessandra raised her voice above the thunder outside. "Phoenix is in great shape, Mr. Smith."
The dog's owner, a beanpole with hollow cheeks and awkward hands, stood immediately. "Thanks again for seeing us, Doc. I hope you won't have any trouble getting home in the storm."
"I grew up in Indiana. This is just a summer shower. Good luck in the Southwest."
Leaving him to settle the bill with Joan, Alessandra returned to the examining room.
Gusting wind drove the rain in sheets against the windows and walls. Not a fit night for man or beast, she thought. Then she busied herself with anything and everything that would help stop her mind from drifting back seven years. Not enough, unfortunately. McBride's face had a way of sneaking in even when her guard was up. But tonight Joan hadn't merely damaged that guard; in typical jackhammer fashion, she'd punched right through it.
Smith and his dog were rattling off when she closed the lab door and returned to the reception room. "Go home, Joan." She held up a computer disk. "I need to look at some back files before I leave."
Joan shed her pink smock. "Workaholism's the first sign, you know."
"Boredom, depression, withdrawal, take your pick. Make up or break up, I say." She fluffed her short platinum curls. "Personally, if I'd nabbed myself a looker like McBride, I'd have stuck."
"Your ex–husband drove a big rig. Mine's a cop turned u.S. marshal. Believe me when I tell you there's a difference."
"And there we end it." Tugging on her rain gear, Joan pointed at the ceiling. "Those lights are hanging on by their fingernails. You'd best work fast."
She intended to, Alessandra thought when a buckshot blast of wind and rain blew in with her assistant's departure. One mile away, in the rancher she'd scrimped and saved to purchase, was a claw–foot tub, a bottle of wine and a retrospective movie, all with her name on them.
Sliding the disk into her computer, she wondered if it was a sad comment on the state of her life that the highlight of a mid–August Friday night involved bubbles, pinot grigio and Cary Grant. Joan would say yes, but then Joan hadn't lived in the crazed nightmare that was Gabriel McBride's cop–dominated world for four–plus complicated years.
A rumbling peal of thunder shook the floor and walls. The lights and Alessandra's computer screen flickered. She poured a cup of coffee, eyed the ceiling, then turned her attention to the subject of bovine anatomy.
She hadn't done anything wrong, she was sure of it. The calf that had lost its life to a massive infection had been, essentially if not literally, dead before the breeder had called her.
Unless she'd missed something...
The breeder, furious and threatening, insisted she had. What could an outsider possibly know about prize bulls?
By "outsider" he meant "female." But it didn't matter to her, since the breeder's opinion of Dr. Stuart Lang, who'd been practicing medicine in South Dakota for the past forty years, was equally low. Glancing at scanned copies of the letters she'd received from the breeder shortly after the calf's death, Alessandra sighed. If words could kill, she'd be dead several times over by now.
Thirty minutes later, with the lights flickering and rain still lashing the windows, she closed the file and rocked her head from side to side.
Phone threats, written threats, Joan's threat—blind date or bus trip—a dead calf and a feeling of guilt that wouldn't subside... All in all, she'd had better weeks. Which made her plans for that night even more appealing.
She needed moments of solitude, sometimes craved them. Her father, a staunch Mennonite farmer, hadn't understood why. Neither had he understood or approved of her desire to leave the comfort of a close–knit community and board a bus for Chicago. What could college there offer her but headaches and problems? Better to stay in Holcombe, Indiana, marry the boy next door and turn two small farms into one.
She'd looked at Toby next door, then at the application in her h...
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Book Description Harlequin, 2011. Mass Market Paperback. Condition: New. Seller Inventory # DADAX0373695659