Review: INTO THE FIRESTORM (BOSS, Inc.) by Kat Martin



Publication Date: January 31, 2017

Genre: Romantic Suspense


img_6368At Brodie Operations Security Service, Inc., following your instincts is company policy . . .

M. Cassidy—Luke Brodie had heard the name before, some novice bounty hunter working Seattle, catching tricky skips with more success than a newcomer should expect. But the dark curls, sparkly top, and impressive cleavage were not what Brodie had pictured.

Emma Cassidy is tough and smart and sexy as hell. She’s also popping up a step ahead of him every time he’s close to the capture he wants most . . . and there’s no room for learning on the trail of this monster.

Emma has idolized Luke Brodie, the bounty hunter who can bring anyone in. The big man in the soft shoes, with a face like a fallen angel and a reputation for breaking hearts. Watching him in action is intoxicating. But her fight with Rudy Vance is fiercely personal. If he gets too close, Brodie will find out just how ferocious she can be . . .


Donna 4 stars

I enjoyed this fast-paced detective novel, with their dangerous search following the clues and dead bodies. The romance was spicy and it flowed well with the story. Emma and Luke, both bounty hunters, made a good couple and were likeable from the start. I did want to smack Luke upside the head a few times, but he was acting in character, and part of the storyline. A fun pulse-pumping story.

*Review copy provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.



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About the Author

New York Times bestselling author Kat Martin is a graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara where she majored in Anthropology and also studied History. Currently residing in Missoula, Montana with her Western-author husband, L. J. Martin, Kat has written sixty-five Historical and Contemporary Romantic Suspense novels. More than sixteen million copies of her books are in print and she has been published in twenty foreign countries. Kat is currently at work on her next Romantic Suspense.

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Blog Tour, Excerpt & Giveaway: INTO THE WHIRLWIND (B.O.S.S., Inc. #2) by Kat Martin


INTO THE WHIRLWIND (B.O.S.S., Inc. #2) by Kat Martin

Publication Date: May 31, 2016


imageA bodyguard, a bounty hunter, a private investigator, no one can handle the heat like the men of BOSS, Inc.

Megan O’Brien is at her wit’s end. Her three-year-old son has been kidnapped. No police, says the ransom demand. Fearing for her son’s life, Meg has no choice but to turn to her former bodyguard, Dirk Reynolds.

Dirk’s never forgiven Meg for the way she left him after their brief affair. But with bounty hunter Luke Brodie on his side, Dirk knows he’s got to help Meg rescue her son.

The few clues they’ve gathered send them spiraling into a murky world of big banking and international crime. Meg may be way out of her depths, but she’s seeing a side of Dirk she never suspected—one no woman could possibly resist.

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“Ms. Megan, thank God you’re home! It’s . . . it’s Charlie. I can’t find little Charlie.”
Meg’s heart took a leap as she stepped into the house, nearly colliding with her housekeeper, Rose Wills.
“He probably woke up and wandered off somewhere. He has to be here someplace.” But even as she said the words, worry jolted through her. Telling herself not to panic, Meg hurried toward the stairs.
“I put him down for a nap an hour ago,” Rose said, hurrying along behind her. “When I went back to check on him, he was gone.”
“You know how he likes to hide. He’s just found a new place.” But fear had her pulse kicking up, and her stomach started to churn. At the top of the landing, she turned and ran down the hall to her three-year-old’s bedroom, the housekeeper close behind her.
Charlie wasn’t in his small white youth bed. “Charlie! Mama’s home. Charlie! Where are you, sweetheart?” Meg ran to the closet and pulled open the door, searched through the stuffed toys and games on the closet floor, but found no sign of her son.
Her heart was hammering now, her stomach balled into a fist. Meg told herself to stay calm. There were dozens of places a little boy could hide in a two-story house.
“Charlie! Charlie, where are you, sweetie?”
Rose’s higher-pitched, worried voice chimed in. “Charlie! Come out now. Your mommy wants you.”
They searched upstairs, but he was nowhere to be seen, went downstairs and searched the floor below.
“God, Rose, where could he be? You don’t think he went outside?”
“I always keep the doors locked and the chain on. There’s no way he could have gotten out.”
They checked all the doors, but Rose was right. No way could her little boy have gotten out of the house.
Meg ran back upstairs. She returned to his room, walked over to the bed to see if the covers still held a trace of warmth. Reaching down, she touched the soft blue blanket with the sailboats on it, but none of Charlie’s heat remained.
Instead, she spotted an envelope protruding from the folds, her name in ink on the front.
“What did you find?” Rose came up beside her.
“It’s a letter.” Her hands shook as she tore the envelope open.
“I didn’t see it before,” Rose said. “Oh, dear Lord.” She started to tremble, her breasts heaving as the implication sank in. She was a big woman, nearly as tall as Meg’s five-foot ten-inch frame. “What . . . what does it say?”
Meg read the note and her heart clutched, then turned to stone. “‘We have your son. He’ll cost you ten million in cash. You’ve got three days or he’s . . . he’s dead. No police.’“
Meg swayed on her feet. She gripped the headboard, afraid she might faint. Dear God, my baby! She turned, let Rose pull her into a hug, and her eyes welled with tears. They clung to each other, both of them crying.
The housekeeper straightened away. “We have to call the police. They’ll know what to do. They’ll get Charlie back.”
Meg shook her head. “No police. If we call them, they’ll kill him.”
Rose crossed herself. “What are going to do, Ms. Meg?”
Meg closed her eyes and prayed for strength. Her dad was extremely wealthy. He loved his grandson. Her father could get the ten million dollars they needed to pay the ransom.
But her dad was also extremely controlling. And he believed money was the solution to everything. What if the kidnappers took the money and still killed her baby?
She thought of Charlie’s father, Jonathan Hollander, the man she had married to please her dad. Yes, he was hand-some. She couldn’t deny she’d been attracted to his dark good looks and charming smile. Her father hadn’t been able to see past Jonathan’s impressive Harvard education and his family’s lofty position in society.
Meg thought what a no-good, lying cheat he had turned out to be.
She couldn’t go to Jonathan.
Another man’s image came to mind. Smart. Loyal to a fault. Strong. Tough. Reliable. The one man she would trust with her precious son’s life.
“I know someone.” Strength seeped through her as determination set in. “I know a man who can bring Charlie home.”

Megan O’Brien parked at the end of the gravel driveway and quietly got out of her white BMW X1 compact SUV. Through the trees, she could hear the roar of a chainsaw, hear hammers banging away, see two-by-fours of golden-yellow pine going up to form the sides of the house under construction.
The garage was already finished, undoubtedly full of Dirk’s toys, including a Harley and a custom Dodge Viper. In the summer, he kept a boat docked on the lake below the house.
Though two other men were hard at work, her gaze went straight to Dirk. Hammer in hand, carpenter’s belt dangling low on his waist, he was shirtless, though the January air was chill.
Hard muscle flexed across his back and shoulders as he pounded in a nail with an ease that said how many times he had done it. Long, sinewy muscles outlined by the soft fabric of his jeans stretched and moved as he worked on his house.
Meg’s gaze went over the familiar dragon tattoo that wound over one shoulder and inched up the side of his neck. The colored ink seemed right with the sexy, short-cropped horseshoe mustache that framed his mouth and curved down to his jaw, making him look like the hard, tough man he was.
Even her terrible fear for her son couldn’t block the memories of how it had felt to lie with him. Couldn’t lessen the yearning that burned through her body just at the sight of him.
Meg had met Dirk Reynolds five months before when she had been preparing for the La Belle fashion show tour. Meg, one of their top models, worked for the chain of expensive lingerie stores.
She glanced back at Dirk. He and his friend, Ethan Brodie, did private investigation and personal security for Brodie Operations Security Services, Inc., the company that had been hired to protect the models after one of them was murdered.
Dirk had been her bodyguard, and though every instinct had warned her not to get involved with him, the fierce attraction between them had been impossible to resist.
Once the models returned home, Meg had ended the affair. She and Dirk weren’t right for each other. Dirk lived fast and hard. He rode a motorcycle, drove a car that could go two hundred miles an hour. Dirk Reynolds was wild and fierce, while she was a single mother with a son to raise.
She couldn’t have Dirk Reynolds. She had a responsibility to her little boy. With a failed marriage behind her, she couldn’t risk failing again.
But she had never gotten over Dirk.
Meg steeled herself and headed along the gravel driveway toward the house Dirk was rebuilding after the fire that had nearly killed him five months ago. One thing she knew, Dirk Reynolds was a hard man to kill.
Which was the reason she had swallowed her pride and her heartache and come to him. She needed him, trusted him as she never had any other man. Her little boy’s life de-pended on gaining this man’s help. This man she had loved and rejected.
She stepped out of the foliage-covered driveway into the open area around the house he was rebuilding. She had called his office looking for him. Nick Brodie, one of the other PIs at BOSS Inc., had reluctantly told her where to find him. Maybe it was the tears he heard in her voice when she had said how important it was. That it was a matter of life or death.
With Dirk’s usual keen senses, he turned, alert that some-one was there, though the buzz of the saw had hid the sound of her footsteps.
For several long moments, he just stared, watching as she walked toward him. He was six-two, his body lean and sculpted. Wavy dark brown hair curled at the nape of his neck. She forced herself to keep walking, even as his jaw locked and a fierce scowl darkened his face.
Dirk grabbed a faded blue work shirt and shrugged it on, covering most of his amazing chest. He didn’t bother fastening the buttons, just strode toward her, blocking her view of the house.
He stopped right in front of her. “What are doing here, Meg?”
“I need to talk to you. It’s . . . it’s urgent.”
“You’re trespassing. What do you want?”
She swallowed, fought to stay strong. He didn’t want her there. She had known he wouldn’t. Known he thought of her only with contempt. She wished he would hold her the way he used to when she was afraid. “I . . . I want to hire you.”
The corner of his mouth edged into a ruthless half smile. “What for? Stud service?”
She wanted to cry. She wanted to beg his forgiveness. Tell him she had never forgotten him. That she never would. She knew it wouldn’t matter to Dirk. Not anymore.
All that mattered now was saving her son.
She looked into those hard hazel eyes and for the first time wondered if she’d been wrong to think he would help her. Dear God, what would she do if Dirk refused?
A sob wedged in her throat. She fought desperately to hold on to her courage. “It’s Charlie. He’s been kidnapped. They left a note. It says they’ll . . . they’ll kill him if I go to the police.”
Something shifted in those hard, condemning eyes. For a moment, the old Dirk appeared. Concerned for her, determined to protect her at any cost, even his life.
“I’ll take you down to the office. Ethan’s out of town with Val. I’ll get Nick to work with you. Or Luke. They’ll help you find your boy. They’ll help you get him back.”
They were all private investigators and they were the best. But they weren’t Dirk Reynolds. Meg started shaking her head, couldn’t stop the tears that leaked onto her cheeks. “It has to be you. I know in my heart you can save Charlie. Only you.”
His jaw went iron hard. “Jesus, Meg.”
“Please, Dirk. Please help me.”
“Do you know what you’re asking?”
She knew. There was a time he had loved her. He had begged her to stay with him, give them a chance. Meg had refused.
“He’s just a little boy. I know you can save him. You won’t give up until you do.”
“Jesus.” He raked a hand through his heavy dark hair. She remembered the exact silky feel of the strands between her fingers.
“The note says they want ten million dollars,” she said. “They’ll kill him if they don’t get it.”
He took a deep breath, released it slowly. “How much time did they give you?”
“Three days.”
“Ten million. That’s a helluva lot of money.”
“My father can get it.”
His gaze remained on her face. “But you don’t trust him to get your boy back. That’s smart, Meg, because money doesn’t always work.”
She swiped at her tears with the back of her hand. “Will you help me?”
His eyes went dark. “You knew I would when you came here.”
“I prayed you would. I wasn’t sure anymore.”
He gazed over her shoulder through the trees, spotted her small white SUV. “You okay to drive?”
“I’m all right.”
“I’ll follow you back to your house.” His mouth barely curved. “I think I can remember where it is.”
Meg turned away from him. Three days. In three days Charlie would be safely returned. Dirk would go on with his life and she would go on with hers.
Three days.
The pain didn’t matter. Charlie was all that mattered. Meg had no other choice.


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About the Author

New York Times bestselling author Kat Martin is a graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara where she majored in Anthropology and also studied History. Currently residing in Missoula, Montana with her Western-author husband, L. J. Martin, Kat has written sixty-five Historical and Contemporary Romantic Suspense novels. More than sixteen million copies of her books are in print and she has been published in twenty foreign countries. Kat is currently at work on her next Romantic Suspense.

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Blog Tour, Excerpt & Giveaway: Into the Fury (BOSS, Inc. Book 1) by Kat Martin


Into the Fury (BOSS, Inc. Book 1) by Kat Martin

Publication Date: January 26, 2016

Genre: Romantic Suspense/ Contemporary Romance


imageA bodyguard, a bounty hunter, a P.I.–the men of Brodie Operations Security Service, Inc. are down for the job. . .

Sinners, whores, and sluts beware–your time is at hand: a faceless menace is threatening lingerie models on a cross country tour, and Ethan Brodie is there to defend and protect.

Ethan’s learned the hard way that beauty is no substitute for character. So even though Valentine Hart is one of the most breathtaking women he’s ever seen, he’s keeping his hands off and his eyes open. Or that’s what he tells himself.

Then one of the models is murdered, and the closer Ethan gets to the answers, the closer he finds himself to Valentine–and the hotter the pressure feels. There’s more to Val–more to the other girls–than he could have guessed. But one is keeping a secret that could kill them all.

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​“Beau Desmond, meet Ethan Brodie,” Carlyle said. “The guy with the ’stache is Dirk Reynolds.”
​Desmond reached out a hand and Ethan and Dirk both shook.
​“Ethan’s heading up the additional security team we’ve hired. He’s also a PI, so he’ll be doing some digging, trying to find out who sent those notes.”
​“Long as he keeps his nose out of my business he can do whatever he wants,” Desmond said.
​One of Ethan’s eyebrows went up. So it was going to be a pissing contest. Who’s the toughest, who’s the best at his job. He’d been afraid of that when he’d spotted the earrings.
​“I’ll do my best to stay out of your way,” Ethan said diplomatically. He was there to do a job. He’d do it with or without Beau Desmond.
​“Make sure you do,” Beau said, determined to get the last word.
​Carlyle made no comment, but clearly he had picked up on Desmond’s belligerent attitude. As they walked away, Dirk was grinning in anticipation. He loved nothing better than making a dickhead look like a fool.
​“Beau’s good at his job,” Carlyle said. “Be helpful if you kept that in mind.”
​“Oh, I will,” Ethan said.
​Dirk wisely made no comment.
​Leaving​Beau Desmond behind, Carlyle led them into a room where four men stood drinking coffee. They each wore jeans and a black T-shirt with a white La Belle logo on the front left corner, the symbol for male and female, a round circle with a cross at the bottom and an arrow off the circle at the top.
​The shirts made them easily identifiable as La Belle security. He and Dirk had been given a stack when they’d walked in that morning and each was wearing one now. Carlyle made the introductions. “Listen up, you men. The guy on my right is Ethan Brodie. He’s heading up additional security for the show. That means the four of you. The guy next to him is Dirk Reynolds. They’re both professionals. They know what they’re doing, so listen and do what they say.”
​The men introduced themselves one at a time. They all had some security experience, not much. A sandy-haired, thirty-something parking lot guard named Sandowski, a tall beanpole of a guy named Walt Wizzy who had worked for Walmart. A Hispanic named Pete Hernandez who was built like a brick house but stood only about five foot six and, by the jut of his chin, probably had a little-man’s complex. Ethan figured if there was trouble in the group, Hernandez would be it.
​A black guy named Joe Posey was an ex-cop, but he was older and out of shape. The men were hardly first string, but Ethan figured unless something really bad went down, they would do just fine.
​He gave the guys a brief rundown of what he expected them to do. “Your job is to keep people out of the theater who aren’t supposed to be here. With this many women around, there’s bound to be a handful of smart-asses who think they’re God’s gift. Handle them pleasantly but firmly. Whatever bullshit story they come up with, don’t let them anywhere near the models. You get in over your head with one or more of them, use your radio to call for backup. Questions?”
​No one spoke.
​“The second part of your job is to keep an eye out for anyone or anything that looks suspicious. Someone who has ill intent, no matter what it might be. Report anything out of the ordinary directly to me or Dirk, and don’t be afraid to say something, even if it seems insignificant. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.”
​Joe Posey raised a dark hand. “I heard a rumor someone sent threatening notes to some of the models. That true?”
​It was, but Carlyle didn’t want the media getting their hands on the information, turning the show into some kind of circus.
​“These women model lingerie,” Ethan said. “They get all kinds of mail, some good, some not so good. Carlyle has his own men escorting the ladies to and from the theater, so you don’t have to worry about that.”
​He ended by filling them in on what Carlyle had told him. “Rehearsals the rest of the week. They start at eight in the morning, go till they’re finished. We’re here before they get here until after they leave. The show is on Saturday night, then we travel. You all understand we’ll be spending some time on the road, right?”
​The men rumbled an affirmative.
​“One last thing: Keep your hands off the girls. No fraternizing, no hassling the women. Stick to that rule and we’ll get along just fine. Break that rule—you’re fired.”
​They had all been warned, but it didn’t hurt to repeat the warning. “Now, I’d like you to spend some time getting familiar with the theater. You need to find all the nooks and crannies, places some joker could hide. Take your time and make it thorough.”
​It was a task he and Dirk would be performing, too, as soon as Carlyle was finished with them. The group of men broke up and headed out the door.
​Ethan turned to Carlyle, who had been standing quietly to one side. “What’s next?”
​“Now I introduce you to our ten top models. There are thirty in all, but these are the stars of the show, the ones who got notes like the one I showed you. These are the women I’d like you to focus on.”
​Carlyle led them out of the room, back to the rear of the stage, where all thirty models were lined up, ready to start rehearsing.
​“There are five segments to the show,” Carlyle explained. “Countries of the World, Nashville, Devil-Angel, Winter Wonderland, and Diamond Jubilee. There’s a wrap with the entire cast, then we’re finished. Each of the women makes at least two costumes changes. They’re working on the World segment now. Follow me.”
​Ethan and Dirk followed Carlyle toward the group of women standing in a semicircle, taking direction from the choreographer of the show, who stood in front of them.
​“That’s Daniel Clemens. He can be a little pissy, but he’s damn good at his job. We couldn’t do the show without him.”
​For rehearsal, most of the women were wearing black leggings under a collection of very short skirts, cutoff jeans, long T-shirts, and cutoff sweatshirts.
​“For the next few days they’ll be working on their routines. There’s a full dress rehearsal the day before the show. That’ll include final costume fittings, live orchestra, everything.”
​Ethan’s gaze ran over the women. At least for the moment, they were decently covered. Their casual dress didn’t change the fact that each woman was incredibly beautiful, their faces right out of a magazine.
​Carlyle roll-called ten names and the women came forward. A couple of redheads, five blondes, two brunettes, and an ebony-skinned beauty with amazing cheekbones and long jet-black hair.
​Ethan flicked a glance at Dirk, who carefully kept his eyes straight ahead.
​“Ladies, these men will be working as additional security while we’re on tour. Ethan Brodie is the big guy on the right. Dirk Reynolds is the guy with the ’stache.”
​Carlyle smiled. “Do me a favor and cut them some slack. They have a job to do, same as you. It’s easier if they don’t have to contend with naughty smiles and flirty remarks.”
​The women chuckled good-naturedly.
​“Introduce yourselves. First names are enough. Start at the far end and work this way.” A redhead stepped forward. “I’m Caralee,” she said with a soft Southern drawl.
​“I am Katerina.” A beautiful, smiling blonde with a hint of Russia in her voice.
​As the women each spoke their names, Ethan mentally attached the name to a face, knew Dirk would be doing the same. The redheads were Caralee and Megan. The blondes were Heather; Katerina, the Russian; Delilah, with very high cheekbones; Ursula—either German or Austrian; and Valentine.
​The brunettes were Isabel, a young Sophia Loren lookalike; and Carmen, a pretty, dark-eyed Latina. The exotic ebony-skinned woman was Amarika. From Africa, maybe.He couldn’t be sure.
​He let his gaze travel over the women a final time, paused for a moment on the one who called herself Valentine. He liked blondes, always had. All five of them had gleaming long blond hair, some straight, some wavy. Valentine’s was the color of honey. It curled softly down her back and swung around her shoulders.
​She was maybe five nine, about an inch shorter than the redhead named Megan, who stood beside her. Most of the girls were around five ten; a couple, including Amarika, appeared to be at least six feet. All of them wore strappy high heels that pushed them up another five or six inches.
​ In a room full of gorgeous women, it took a helluva lot to stand out. He heard throaty laughter, realized it came from redheaded Megan. Next to her, the blonde flashed a grin, and a stunning pair of dimples popped out. He’d remember that one now, Valentine. Sounded more like a stripper than a classy underwear model, but hey, what did he know?


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3 Paperback copies of INTO THE FURY (U.S. Only)

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About the author

imageKat Martin is the author of twenty-one Historical and Contemporary Romance novels. She tackles many different aspects of her genre with settings ranging from the rugged West to the Antebellum South, Regency, Georgian, and Medieval England. Not one to shy away from change, she also tackles Contemporary Romantic Suspense novels which involve the paranormal. Some of her titles include Nothing But Velvet, Sweet Vengeance, and Dangerous Passions. These works have won a bevy of awards including a recent Romantic Times Magazine nomination for Best Historical Romance of 1998 for her latest release, Wicked Promise. She is also published in, among others, Germany, Norway, Sweden, China, Russia, and Spain.

Before starting her writing career in 1985, Kat was a real estate broker. During that time, she met her husband, Larry Jay Martin, also a Kensington author. After double majoring in Anthropology and History at the University of California at Santa Barbara, she found herself incredibly interested in the past. In fact, she and Larry often do research in the areas where their books take place. She remarks, “We like to stay in out-of-the-way inns and houses built in times past. It’s fun and it gives a wonderful sense of a bygone era.”

In May, Kat will release her next Historical Romance, Night Secrets. Following that is an upcoming Zebra release, a Contemporary Romantic Suspense entitled The Silent Rose, which will be out in August. “It’s a ghostly tale of romance and intrigue that was based on a real life incident,” says Kat. “It’s a little bit scary, a whole lot sexy, and hopefully lots of fun to read.”

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Blog Tour, Excerpt & Giveaway: Against the Tide (The Brodies of Alaska #3) by Kat Martin


Against the Tide

The Brodies of Alaska #3

by Kat Martin

Releasing May 26, 2015



Secrets—and safety—melt under a midnight sun…

Liv Chandler is running for her life, and the cops haven’t been able to do a thing to help. But there’s one man who makes her feel safe, no matter what…rugged charter boat captain Rafe Brodie.

To Rafe, Liv is a beautiful mystery, one he can’t ignore. He means to unearth her secrets, and in the process, if luck is on his side, maybe the spark between them will ignite.

But Liv’s past is more dangerous than Rafe could guess, and when his first mate turns up dead, she fears that she’s next. That there’s something else coming she can’t see. That even Rafe and the remote village of Valdez, Alaska can’t protect her forever…

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The breakfast crowd at the Pelican Café had begun to arrive, as people did every morning when it opened at six a.m. The café had opened its doors in the fifties and been going strong ever since. Of course, it had passed through a dozen different owners, had its ups and downs, and been near financial ruin more than once.

Having purchased the restaurant six months ago, Olivia Chandler was the most recent person to step into the driver’s seat. Unlike the previous owner, who had let the place sink into disrepair, Olivia had been making changes, most of which had been heralded with great enthusiasm by the local customers.

The bell above the door rang as a young mother and her little girl walked in and headed for one of the light blue vinyl booths. Melissa Young, Olivia remembered, was her name. Liv made a point of getting to know her customers— just not too well.

While Melissa grabbed a child’s high seat and settled one-year-old Suzy in it, the waitress, a slim little blonde named Katie McKenzie, grabbed the coffeepot off the burner behind the counter and headed for the booth. Katie smiled as she filled Melissa’s mug and handed her a menu.

“I’ll give you a minute to decide,” Katie said, hurrying off to another table to refill an earlier patron’s cup.

One of the changes Liv had made was to hire a new cook—one who wasn’t high on marijuana half the time. Wayne Littlefish was Alaska Native, reliable and great in the kitchen. An older man, Charlie Foot, worked the dinner shift.

Liv had also hired two part-time waitresses instead of one full-time worker, which gave each of the girls a more flexible schedule and made taking time off easier for all of them, including Olivia and long-time employee, Nell Olsen.

A buxom woman with thick, silver-streaked black hair, Nell had worked at the café for more than ten years. She was as much a fixture as the sky-blue interior, the ocean theme, and the anchors and fishing nets on the walls.

Nell had been invaluable in helping Liv take over the business since, aside from waiting tables for the past couple of years, being a fairly decent cook, and a very fast learner, Liv had almost no experience in running a restaurant.

Still, in the last six months she had managed to keep the old clientele happy and add new customers. The tourist season was just starting, so business was getting even better.

“Well, look who’s coming,” Nell said, staring out the window at a tall man in jeans and a sweatshirt crossing the outside patio. The brick patio was empty now while it was still cold, but with summer approaching, soon would be noisy with people. “If it isn’t Mr. Tall, Dark, and Handsome.”

Katie walked past Liv just then, a platter of bacon and eggs riding on the flat of her hand. “I just call him Mr. Freakin’ Hot.”

“Shame on you,” Liv teased. “You just turned twentyone. Rafe Brodie’s got to be at least a dozen years older.”

“Just means he’s a man not a boy. And I like a guy with a little experience.”

“From what I hear, he has plenty of that,” Liv said dryly as Katie sailed off to deliver the food.

Nell chuckled. “I’m fifty years old and that man can still make me swoon.”

Olivia busied herself wiping off the long Formica-topped counter as Rafe shoved through the door, ringing the bell above. Seating himself in his usual booth, he stretched his long legs out in front of him. Rafe was a regular in the café, which sat on North Harbor Drive right across from the boat dock.

“Katie’s busy,” Nell said with a matchmaking glint in her eyes. “Why don’t you wait on him?”

Olivia shook her head. “I’m busy, too. You go ahead.”

Knowing there was no persuading her, Nell sighed. “Probably better you don’t. Everyone in town knows Rafe’s a dedicated bachelor.”

As the owner of the café, Olivia caught most of the local gossip. According to Cassie Webster, the other part-time waitress, Rafe Brodie had dated a woman named Sally Henderson for nearly three years, until she dumped him four months ago because he refused to marry her.

Apparently, he’d made his intentions—or lack thereof— clear from the start, but Sally hadn’t believed him, poor girl.

Dedicated bachelor or not, Nell and Katie were right. With the thick, dark brown hair curling just over his collar, the faint shadow of beard that usually lined his hard jaw, and those hot, whiskey-brown eyes, he was one of the best-looking men Olivia had ever seen.

Which was exactly the reason she had avoided him since the day she had met him.

Oh, she’d been pleasant enough when she had to be, spoken to him for a moment when she’d been introduced to him at a chamber of commerce mixer right after she’d bought the café, but she always managed to be too busy to wait on him.

No use putting temptation in her path. It was simply too dangerous.

Still, as she worked taking orders and delivering meals to the patrons at the counter, she couldn’t help an occasional glance in his direction. He had always reminded her of a dark-haired lion, powerful and dangerous yet fascinating in some primitive way. He looked different today, the shadow along his jaw darker, as if he hadn’t had time to shave, his handsome features set in grim lines, and faint shadows under his eyes.

She watched as Nell chatted with him a moment, then Liv watched the easy smile Nell usually gave him slip from her face.

The coffeepot wavered. Rafe grabbed the glass pot to keep her from dropping it and spilled hot coffee over his hand.

Olivia didn’t hesitate, just grabbed a towel, wet it with cold water, and hurried in Rafe’s direction. He was sitting down again, Nell fussing over him, relieved to see Olivia approaching.

“Here—wrap this around your fingers.” She handed him the wet towel. “It’s cold enough to ease the pain and keep the burn from getting worse.”

“I’m all right,” Rafe said. “It’s no big deal.” But he accepted the wet cloth and looped it over the back of a big, suntanned hand.

The man was all of six-four, two-hundred-plus pounds, with a solid, athletic build and very wide shoulders. Liv was five-nine, but Rafe was more than half a head taller. She tried not to stare at his mouth, which seemed harder this morning without the smile he always had for Nell.

She glanced in her friend’s direction, sucked in a breath as Nell’s pale blue eyes filled with tears.

“Oh God, what is it?”

Nell blinked and the tears rolled down her cheeks. She wiped at the wetness with a trembling hand. “I could tell something was wrong. It was stamped all over Rafe’s face.”

Liv glanced from one to the other, saw the same grim expression on both of their faces. “Tell me what’s happened.”

Nell swallowed. “It’s . . . it’s Scotty. He was killed last night.”

Olivia felt the blood seeping out of her head. She found herself sinking down on the bench opposite Rafe. “Oh God. That’s why Cassie didn’t show up for work this morning.” The reason Olivia had had to call Katie.

Rafe’s towel-wrapped hand unconsciously fisted. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said anything. I figured since Cassie works here, Nell already knew.”

“I’m glad you told me,” Nell said. “I need to go to her, make sure she’s okay.”

“I’ll cover while you’re gone,” Liv said. “We’ll be fine.” Nell wiped fresh tears from her cheeks. “This is going to break her heart. She loved Scotty so much. Everyone loved him.”

“I can’t believe he’s dead,” Liv said, aching for the young woman whose future had been shattered. “What happened?”

“The police think it was a mugging,” Rafe said. “Whoever did it stole his wallet, jewelry, cell phone.”

“Where did it happen?”

“On the dock next to the Scorpion.”

“Last night?”

“That’s right.”

Liv frowned. “What was he doing down at the dock at night? He’s usually home with Cassie.”

“I don’t know. I talked to Jaimie Graham before I came over. She had no idea what he was doing down there.”

“Jaimie had an awful crush on Scotty,” Nell said. “She must have taken the news real hard.”

“Jaimie isn’t good at hiding her feelings,” Rafe said. “She ran out of the house as soon as I told her, took off so no one would see her cry.”

Nell shook her head, moving the thick, salt-and-pepper hair that came to her shoulders and was clipped back on each side. “Poor thing.”

“I still can’t figure why Scotty was down at the dock,” Olivia said.

Rafe’s brown eyes swung to her face. “I’m hoping once things settle down, Cassie’ll be able to tell us.”

Olivia thought of the young woman who worked for her, imagined her pain, and her throat went tight. In the six months she had been running the café, she and Cassie had become close friends. Or at least as close as Liv could allow.

She looked over at Nell, whose face was still pale. “You go on. Go to her. As soon as the breakfast rush is over, I’ll join you at Cassie’s house.”

Nell just nodded. Picking the coffeepot up off the table, she headed for the breakfast counter, set the pot on the burner at the back. Removing her sky-blue Pelican Café apron, she slipped out through the side door near the rear of the building.

Liv glanced across the table at Rafe. His jaw looked iron hard, his eyes so dark she could barely see a hint of gold. For the first time it occurred to her that Rafe was hurting, too. Scotty was his first mate and they were friends. Cassie had said Scott idolized Rafe, had thought of him as an older brother.

Reaching toward him, she settled a hand over the fist he rested on top of the table. “Are you okay?”

His dark eyes flicked down to her hand, then moved up to her face. “Scott was a good man. One of the best. Whoever killed him is going to pay.”

A little shiver ran through her. It wasn’t a statement. It was a vow. “Surely the police will find the man who did it.”

“There’re eleven guys in the Valdez department. Eleven police officers to cover two-hundred-seventy square miles, including the pipeline terminus.” Valdez was the end point of the Alaska pipeline. The huge oil shipping facility at the edge of town was one of the things that made Valdez famous.

Along with the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Eleven million gallons killed 250,000 seabirds and hundreds of otters and seals, a disaster it took thirty years to recover from. That and the biggest earthquake in U.S. history.

More recently, the tiny town was a place known for its majestic scenery and fabulous fishing.

“What about the State Troopers?” Olivia asked.

“I don’t know. Maybe. Rosen is a good man, but cops can be pissy about their territory. He may think he can go it alone.”

“Maybe he can,” Liv said, but she didn’t really trust the police. Hadn’t since she’d been forced to run for her life and couldn’t count on the police to help her.

“Maybe,” Rafe said. “I guess we’ll see.”

Liv watched his jaw settle into a determined line and thought of the vow he had made. Clearly it was a promise he meant to keep.

As she slid out of the booth, she realized her legs still felt shaky. “Would you like something to eat? You look like you could use it.”

Rafe rubbed a hand over the bristles along his jaw. “Lost my appetite. I just need some coffee. That’s what I came in for.”

She noticed the china mug in front of him had never gotten filled. “I’ll take care of it.” She headed across the café, grabbed the pot off the burner, and returned, poured his mug to the brim. “It’s on the house today.”

“Thanks . . . Liv.” Rafe’s gaze fixed on her face. It was the first time he had used the more familiar version of her name.

Olivia didn’t like the way her stomach lifted at the way he said that single, softly spoken word.

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 Kat Martin is the New York Times bestselling author of more than sixty books across multiple genres. Sixteen million copies are in print and she has been published in twenty-one foreign countries, including Japan, France, Argentina, Greece, China, and Spain. Her books have been nominated for the prestigious RITA award and won both the Lifetime Achievement and Reviewer’s Choice Awards from RT Book Reviews.

A resident of Missoula, Montana, Kat is a graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara, where she majored in Anthropology and also studied History. She and her author husband, L.J. Martin, spend their winters in Ventura, California. She is currently writing her next Romantic Suspense.

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