COMING FRIDAY 7 PM PST. WINTER AUSTIN AUTHOR OF: LIAR, LIAR SEE EXCERPT FROM ANOTHER OF HER WORKS
7 PM PST. WINTER AUSTIN
(Book #4 of McIntire County)
A cowboy sheriff and a by-the-book FBI agent team up to solve a string of murders and arson in this satisfying, slow-burning McIntire County series finale.
Returning to Eider, Iowa, wasn’t an FBI agent Liza Bartholomew’s game plan, but when word reaches her that an elusive scam artist she’s been tracking for years was spotted there, she heads south. Vengeance for his victims and her career are on the line, and she won’t rest until justice is served.
However, Eider’s sheriff makes for one big roadblock. Between the fallout over his recent close re-election, two gruesome homicides, a rash of arsons, and personal grief weighing on his soul, the last thing Shane Hamilton has time for is a determined FBI agent in his county.
But when it becomes evident that the crime wave and her case are intertwined, Shane makes a bold move that flies in the face of his longstanding vow: He gets close to Liza to share professional and personal secrets.
As the body count mounts, Liza and Shane find themselves and everyone they love in the immediate crosshairs. What will they sacrifice to stop the cold-blooded killer in time?
Sensuality Level: Behind Closed Doors
“You still hungry?” He maneuvered the vehicle onto the road while dodging people and obstacles.
Liza checked the time on her iPhone and groaned. Six thirty-three. “I’m starving.” Her peppermint mocha indulgence had long burned up in her system. And her last remembered meal was the lone energy bar she’d eaten as she left Cedar Rapids that morning.
“I’ll have Murdoch pick us up some food when we get back to the station.”
“Why is she still running rookie errands for you? Isn’t she a full-blown deputy?”
“Questioning my methods, Agent?”
“Darn straight I am.”
The corner of his mouth twitched. “Never let it be said that you weren’t persistent. I need to get back to the station, ASAP. Murdoch has more leeway to do a food run.”
“Why the hurry to get back? You really should wait for the fire investigator.”
“Should, but Jennings paged me. Apparently, my prisoner is causing a ruckus, making demands my deputies won’t listen to.”
“So you go.”
A lift of his chin was all the acknowledgment she got, which fit his persona. The good ole boy doing his sworn duty. More people could learn from Hamilton, and then maybe there would be less sexism and problems.
What the hell? Was she bordering on worshipping him? Okay, time to backtrack this and get her focus back on her duty, watching the scenery flash by being the safest option.
Liza had given up trying to memorize any of it after Hamilton got the call about the fire. There were so many back roads and twists and turns that sent her head spinning. She’d bet her badge and Sig none of these gravel roads were on a map. Which explained why her GPS had fits, utterly failing her when she drove into town.
Short of admitting her little weakness to Hamilton, she was going to have to come up with an excuse to not drive around the county on her own. And any excuse she’d pull out of her ass would be lame at best. This few-hours jaunt had turned into a nightmare for a woman who was directionally challenged outside of Cedar Rapids.
“Must be some tough thinking you’ve got goin’ on there.”
Her gaze jerked from the window to him; she blinked as her nutrient-deprived mind tried to catch up with her quick movements. “Uh, yeah, sure.”
He chuckled, a deep rumbling sound she felt all the way to her toes. It warmed her in those cold, dark places of her soul no one had touched before; not even her nephew Quinn managed that, and the kid was something special for her.
“I’d like to have a conversation with Roslin.”
“I think that can be arranged. But I’d rather wait until tomorrow. Let her sleep off whatever craziness is going on up there in her head.”
“Makes sense. However, what am I going to do in the meantime? I can’t go back to Cedar Rapids tonight and let my SAC know I have nothing to show for this trip except a dead man and a burnt house.”
“You could stay here in Eider for the night. Tomorrow you can gather what you need before heading back.”
“Where do you propose I stay? I didn’t exactly put in a voucher for a hotel.”
“Cassy and Boyce’s house is empty for the time being.”
Liza frowned. “Why’s that?”
“Cassy is training as a K-9 handler, and Boyce and their baby went along.”
Empty house, and if it was the same place Cassy had lived in the last time Liza was here, she knew how to get there, and from the sheriff’s department, too. Only if the Hunts hadn’t moved.
“I appreciate the offer, but will they be okay with it?”
“Considering I’m the one in charge of looking after the place, I don’t think they’ll mind. Only condition I have is you need to cover chores.”
Hamilton grinned but kept his focus on the road. “Cassy owns a pair of horses that need grain in the morning, and you check the water to make sure it’s running okay.”
“It’s easy. I can show you where the feed is and how much.”
She blinked. Wha—? Oh, he was just trying to be friendly. After all, she did mention that he should call her Liza. “All right, Shane, I haven’t ever owned an animal in my life. Are you sure this is wise, having me feed horses?”
“They’re mostly self-sufficient. If you forget to give them their grain once, it won’t hurt them. Makes them grumpy, yeah, but they have plenty of pasture to graze on so they won’t starve.”
It all sounded simple enough, and if he was going to show her how to do it, maybe he’d lead her there—she could make sure it was the same place as before—and she wouldn’t have to worry about getting lost.
“Okay, if you’re sure Cassy and Boyce won’t mind.”
“I can give them a call if it would make you feel better.”
“Preferred.” That solved that. Liza inhaled, caught the smell of her clothing, and grimaced. Oh, this so was not going to fly. She needed clean clothing. Was that emergency overnight bag still in the car? Had she checked to see if the clothing inside was clean after the last time she used it? “Oh, crapola.”
“I don’t think I have a clean set of clothing with me. Darn it.”
“I’m sure Cassy wouldn’t mind if you wore something of hers.”
Liza eyeballed the man next to her. “How are you so certain that her clothing would fit me?”
She didn’t think it possible, but Shane Hamilton’s face changed to an interesting shade of pink. Could it be? The man did get embarrassed.
“Well,” he choked out, “uh … you two look similar in … size.”
“I don’t know how I should feel about that. I look like a formerly pregnant woman?”
His face flamed bright red. “Not what I was saying.”
A wicked grin turned up the corners of her mouth. Oh, he made this too easy. “What was I supposed to assume, Sheriff?”
“That you needed clean clothing and Cassy’s would fit you.”
“How would Cassy feel about you pimping out her clothes?”
His mouth dropped and closed. If she gave him a few minutes, his eyes might glaze over and he’d have a fit. “I’m not pimping out her clothing.”
“But it never crossed your mind I could buy something?”
Now he was utterly flustered. Ooh, he looked fine all tongue-tied and twisted.
“I just thought you’d …” He humphed. “You’re one wicked woman. You had me going.”
“I thought for sure the smile would give me away.”
“That was a smile? Looked more like you were baring your teeth.”
Shrugging, Liza scooted into a slump in the seat. “Baring my teeth, smiling, it’s all in the eye of the beholder.” She closed her eyes. “I’ll see what Cassy has. If nothing fits, I’ll have to make a run to the store. No biggie.”
“You didn’t have to make a production of Chicago out of it.”
“Oh, but it was way too fun.”
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Winter Austin perpetually answers the question “were you born in the winter?” with a flat “nope.” Living in the middle of Nowheresville, Iowa, with her husband, four teenagers, and two crazy dogs, Winter is trying to juggle a job while writing deadly romantic thrillers.
Find Winter Austin at www.winteraustin.com, on Facebook www.facebook.com/author.winteraustin/, and on Twitter @WinterAustin_, Goodreads link: www.goodreads.com/author/show/6880807.Winter_Austin
(Book #2 of McIntire County)
Trouble’s on the run in rural Eider, Iowa, and Deputy Cassy Rivers’s heart is in the line of fire. Two years ago, she barely escaped a harrowing experience at the hands of a maniac—and not without scars. Now a series of random robberies leads to the brutal death of a fellow officer, and she must put her trust in the one man who broke her heart.
FBI agent Boyce Hunt knows commitment isn’t for men with pasts like his. He left Cassy once to protect her from the blackmail and manipulation he faces from his mother’s criminal enterprise. But when they reluctantly partner up to capture the modern Bonnie and Clyde terrorizing McIntire County, their attraction flames to life once more, pulling Boyce between two loyalties.
Will they risk their hearts again, even if it means losing everything?
She had avoided any chance of entering the timbered areas of McIntire County, where the stuff of nightmares dwelt.
But not tonight.
Tonight, nothing that mattered to her—not her family, her past, or her pride—was as important as doing her job. And damn it, Deputy Cassandra Rivers always did her job, even when it was obvious the orders might get her killed.
She and her squad-car partner, Deputy Deacon Nash, had been sent to this side of the county—the heavily wooded side—to patrol for the culprits who’d dared to rob a bank yesterday. With every mile she traveled through the darkened timbers, sweat seeped from her pores, saturating the first layer of clothing.
“Calling all units. Robbery in progress at the Speedy Mart,1653 Elm St. Two unidentified suspects wearing dark clothing and black sneakers. Suspects are armed. No sirens or lights.”
“10-4, dispatch. Rivers and Nash responding. Approximately nine minutes out, over.”
Thank God for small miracles. She yanked that car around, and as fast as the slick road conditions would allow, she sped back toward town.
“Easy, Rivers. We’re one of several units responding,” Nash warned.
Damn this crappy weather. No doubt the gas station attendant wasn’t in a situation to wait for whoever was less inconvenienced to arrive at the rescue.
A few miles from the edge of town, the glare of headlights seemed to come out of nowhere. It took her brain a few seconds to realize that the oncoming vehicle was veering back and forth between her lane and the other, and those lights were a lot closer than they first appeared.
“Shit!” She reacted without thinking, hitting the brakes and throwing the car into neutral, then braced for impact, hoping the cow kicker covering the grill did its job to protect them. “Hang on!”
The front wheels hit a slick patch, and suddenly the steering wheel jerked right and the car skidded off the road into the ditch. The nose dove into a snowbank, spraying the windshield with a powdery shower and bringing the vehicle to a rapid stop. Cassy jerked in her seat, the belt locking her tightly in its grip. Glaring at the whooshing wipers as they cleared the moisture from the glass, she unclenched her fingers from around the steering wheel.
“Rivers, you okay?” Nash asked.
“Fine, but pissed off.” Shifting the car into park, she left the engine going and removed her belt.
“Those assholes are going to be in for a surprise.” She hit the lights, and as she tried to push her door open, it stuck in the snow.
Nash grabbed the mic and radioed dispatch. “Dispatch, be advised, responding unit has been in an accident and is in need of assistance, over.”
Cassy twisted in her seat to brace her feet against the door and forced it open wide enough for her to squeeze out.
“Copy that,” she heard the dispatcher reply as she fumbled through the drift. Nash would give their location.
Flashlight in hand, she scanned the area, making sure not to peer into the stand of trees at her back. Oh, how nice. The asshole who’d ran them off the road hadn’t bothered to stop and was now a faint red glow in the distance. The mound they’d plowed into was mid-calf deep, and by the looks of the tires, the car was stuck good. They’d need a wrecker. Upon making another pass toward the road, the flashlight beam glinted off metal. Cassy paused, her heart hurtling into her throat as the light revealed the secret in the dark.
Red taillights reflected from a truck that had smashed into the fat trunk of a tree. The driver’s side door hung open at an awkward angle. Her brain blanked, ripping her back to those moments, those seconds of lucidness when she’d realized that open door meant her life or death.
A grunt of exertion hurtled her to the present. Cassy coughed as she realized she’d been holding her breath. There would be no going back to that night, or the day that followed. She was here, now, and that meant someone was hurt and needed her help. She looked over her shoulder at her partner. “Nash, we’ve got another accident.”
That truck … it looked familiar. She hurried, best as she could through the snow, to the crushed vehicle. Behind her, she heard her partner following. Panting by the time she reached the truck bed, Cassy placed a hand against the side and sucked in air. Finally able to breathe, she lifted her flashlight.
Dark, dripping stains marred the window and the door’s interior. The coppery scent of blood was strong—either the cold was keeping it fresh, or the accident had occurred in the last hour. On closer inspection, they found more blood on the steering wheel and seat, smeared down the side of the truck into the snow.
“Where’s the driver?” Nash asked.
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