"Vivid and charming."—CHARLAINE HARRIS, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Sookie Stackhouse series
He's a firefighter. He's a Motorcycle Club member.
And if a killer has his way...he'll take the fall for a murder he didn't commit.
Ian Walsh is used to riding the line between the good guys and the bad. He may owe the club his life, but his heart rests with his fire station brothers...and with the girl he's loved since they were kids. Ian would do anything for Rory. He'd die for her. Kill for her. Defend her to his last breath, and he may just have to.
Every con in the Rockies knows Rory is the go-to girl for less-than-legal firearms. When she defends herself against a brutal attack, Rory finds herself catapulted into the center of a gang war, with only Ian standing between her and a threat greater than either of them could have imagined.
In the remote Rocky Mountains, lives depend on the Search & Rescue brotherhood. But in a place this far off the map, trust is hard to come by and secrets can be murder..
"Gripping suspense, unique heroines, sexy heroes." —CHRISTINE FEEHAN, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author
Search and Rescue Series:
On His Watch (FREE novella)
Hold Your Breath (Book 1)
Fan the Flames (Book 2)
Gone too Deep (Book 3)
In Safe Hands (Book 4)
After the End (FREE novella)
What People Are Saying About Katie Ruggle's Romantic Suspense:
"I love Ruggle's characters. They're sharply drawn, and vividly alive. I'm happy when they find each other. These are wonderful escapist books."—CHARLAINE HARRIS, #1 New York Times Bestselling author of the Sookie Stackhouse series
"Sexy and suspenseful, I couldn't turn the pages fast enough."—JULIE ANN WALKER, New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author for Hold Your Breath
"Chills and thrills and a sexy slow-burning romance from a terrific new voice."—D.D. AYRES, author of the K-9 Rescue Series for Hold Your Breath
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Fan the Flames
By Katie Ruggle
Sourcebooks, Inc.Copyright © 2016 Katie Ruggle
All rights reserved.
If Zup didn't decide on the rifle within the next two minutes, Rory was going to shoot him.
Unfortunately, because he was the son of the local motorcycle club's president, killing him — or even just putting a hole where no hole had been before — would pretty much guarantee severe consequences. Since Rory was moderately content with her life at the moment, she'd rather not have it end abruptly. Drawing a long breath in through her nose and praying for patience, she employed her subpar salesmanship skills.
"What's the problem?"
Zup looked up from his scowling appraisal of the SUB 2000. "Maze said he had a Kel-Tec, and it jammed all the time."
"Tell Maze to quit using crap ammo." He just frowned at her. With another deep breath, she tried again. "These rifles are built to use common pistol magazines."
"I know." He held the rifle to his shoulder again. "That's why I want one. That, and it can fold in half, so it'd be small enough to carry around in a laptop case."
"Well, the recoil spring and bolt are heavier than in a pistol." With a great effort, she kept most of the condescension out of her voice. Rory hated having to explain things to people, especially guys like Zup, who just ignored her anyway. This was why she hadn't become a teacher. Well, that, and she'd most likely fail the background check — and probably the psych exam. "If you use poor quality rounds, you're going to get some failures."
Zup's frown turned from the rifle to her. "Maze loads all our ammo. Are you telling me he's fucking it up?"
"What I'm saying," she gritted through clenched teeth, "is that if you run good ammo through this rifle, it's going to be reliable."
After eyeing her suspiciously for a few seconds, he grunted and brought the stock to his shoulder again. He shifted his position several times as he peered through the sights, and then complained, "This steel pipe sucks as a cheek rest."
"That's it." She jumped off the counter where she'd been sitting and held out her hands. "Give it to me."
Instead, he turned away from her while tucking the rifle close to his chest. "Hang on," he told her. "I'm still deciding."
"No, I've decided for you." Rory flicked her fingers in a "gimme" gesture. There was a beep indicating someone had just come through the front door of her shop, and the last of her patience disappeared. "If you can't appreciate an accurate, dependable, untraceable Kel-Tec SUB 2000 because it's not comfy enough, then you don't deserve it. Hand it over."
Reluctantly, he relinquished the rifle. "I do want it. How much?"
"Nope. Too late." She pulled down on the trigger guard and swung the barrel assembly up and over the receiver, marveling at the ingenuity it took to completely redesign a rifle so it could fold in half. As she gently placed it into its case, she couldn't refrain from stroking her fingers over the gun's practical shape. It wasn't the most attractive of rifles, but it did its job. She'd take functional over pretty any day.
Zup watched the gun disappear. Although it was hard to tell under his bushy beard, she was pretty sure he was pouting. "Ro-ry ..."
"What are you whining about now, Zup?" a low voice asked.
It took all her willpower not to look. If she glanced at Ian Walsh in all his dark, muscle-bound glory, she'd start stammering and blushing. Every time he walked into her store, his melty brown eyes focused on her, black hair mussed by his fireman's helmet or a motorcycle ride, those full, beautiful lips curving into a friendly smile, she marveled that this incredible person was in her life. They were just friends, of course, but she told herself that it was enough — more than she could expect, really. With his model-perfect features and body, he looked as if he should be attending photo shoots, not leaning on the wall behind the counter, chatting with plain, weird Rory Sorenson.
Plain, weird Rory Sorenson, who right now couldn't even look at him.
After that first breath-stealing moment when she first saw him, she could usually turn on casual-and-friendly mode, but not after the dream she'd had the night before — a dream that had featured her, Ian, his bike, and not many clothes. Her cheeks flamed at the memory. Keeping her gaze focused downward, she latched the case with more care than was required.
"Rory won't let me buy the Kel-Tec rifle I want."
Ian's amused snort almost brought her gaze to him, but she resisted. "Maybe if you are a good boy and save all your paper route money, Rory will let you buy your toy."
"Fuck off, Walsh," Zup snarled, stomping into the front section of the shop. After a few seconds, the beep sounded again, indicating he'd left.
She wasn't about to open the concealed compartment where she kept her not-quite-legal inventory to put away the rifle with Ian watching. Once the shop was empty, she'd come back to stow the gun. But that meant that now, with the case latched, there was no avoiding looking at him. When Rory glanced up at Ian and saw he was grinning, showing off his single dimple, she mentally swore and clung to her impassive expression.
"What'd he do?" Ian asked, boosting himself onto a counter.
Memories of her dream flooded her mind. The back room was too small, too ... intimate, for the two of them to be alone.
"Let's go," she said, flapping her hands to shoo him off his perch. "I need to be up front."
Ian didn't more. "Why? If someone comes in, the sensor will beep."
"Move." She scowled, irritated that she didn't have a good reason — or at least not one she could tell him.
"Fine." Hopping off the counter, he gestured for her to precede him. "And you never answered my question."
"Which one?" Although she would've preferred taking up the rear, it wasn't worth the argument. Instead, she just moved quickly, giving a silent sigh of relief when she could settle on a stool behind the cash register. Since the nearest chair was across the counter, she'd regain some of her much-needed personal space if he'd only sit in it.
The only problem was that Ian didn't take the chair but leaned against the wall next to her. "I asked what Zup did to get the boot."
"He whined and bitched and moaned until I couldn't take it anymore. He's lucky I just refused to sell him the rifle. I really wanted to shoot him."
Ian laughed, crossing his arms over his chest. "You know he'll just go running to Daddy and cry about how you were mean to him."
"I know," she said, ignoring the dual assault of bulging biceps and that stupid dimple with some effort. "Billy will come storming in here, demanding I sell Zup the gun. I'll put up a fight, but eventually give in, and charge Zup double what I would've if he hadn't been such a baby in the first place."
With another laugh, Ian pushed off the wall and began to prowl around the shop, peering into the glass display cases. "I can't believe it's been only a few years since Billy first came in here and got that Beretta for his old lady. Did you ever think you'd be this casual about a pissed-off Billy?"
"Casual's not really the right word." That had been Ian's first of many visits to the store — although not the first time they'd met. Three years ago, her parents had been gone only a couple of months, and everything from that time was a little hazy. The memory of Ian walking into the store, though — that was etched sharply on her mind. She pulled herself out of her thoughts when she realized Ian was looking at her curiously, as if waiting for her to elaborate. "That'd be dangerous, like getting too relaxed around a pet bear. No matter how friendly he acts, I always have to keep in mind what he's capable of."
His expression grew serious. "Good point. You're smart not to let your guard down around him — or any of the Riders."
"Even you?" Her attempt at friendly teasing came out awkward, as always, and she busied herself with smoothing the curled corner of a sticky note stuck to the counter.
"Even me." He didn't sound like he was joking. When she glanced at him, surprised, he quickly changed the subject. "So what do you have that's new and interesting?"
"Oh!" She jumped to her feet, hurrying toward the back. "You're going to love this. Hang on a second — I'll go grab it."
After retrieving the case she wanted and returning to the front, she set it on one of the counters and opened the lid.
"Check this out," she said.
Ian leaned closer to look. Instead of displaying the appropriate amount of awe, he laughed.
"It's so ... little."
"That's the point." She picked up the tiny gun that measured just over two inches. "It's a SwissMiniGun. It's a functioning revolver."
"The latest trend in rodent control?" he teased, taking the gun from her and letting it rest in his palm. It looked even smaller in comparison.
"It's amazing," she huffed, although she couldn't completely stifle her laugh. "So intricate and so tiny."
"It actually works?"
"Yep." Taking the miniature revolver back from him, she placed it in one of the display cases. "It shoots .09 caliber bullets."
Ian shook his head. "You have everything in here."
"Pretty much." Rory eyed the placement of the tiny gun and moved it to a different area of the shelf. Then she closed and locked the case. "If I don't have it, I can probably get it. Speaking of that, did you need something, or did you just stop in to check out my new SwissMiniGun?"
Without warning, his easygoing expression hardened into a look she'd rarely seen on him. Her stomach twisted as she steeled herself for his request. She hated the high-risk orders. If she could have made a living off the front of the shop, she would've been happy to close the back room for good.
"I need information, actually," he said.
Rory stared at him. That ... wasn't what she'd been expecting. "Okay," she said slowly. "About what?"
"Julius. Has he been in here recently?"
Propping a hip onto the stool behind the counter, she eyed him thoughtfully. "I don't like reporting on my customers — even to their own families. Maybe especially to their own families."
Ian grimaced. "I know. I don't like asking. But he's been acting squirrelly lately, ever since ..." He swallowed, anguish peeking through before his expression smoothed into granite. "I need to know what kind of firepower he's tucking away."
"Ian. His wife died six weeks ago. Give him a little time." As soon as the words passed her lips, she felt like an insensitive idiot. Of course Ian knew exactly how long it had been since his own mother lost her long-fought battle with cancer.
When he stalked a few steps away from her, Rory thought for a moment that she'd offended him enough to make him follow Zup's example and slam out of the shop. Instead, he pivoted around and paced back to where she was half-perched on her stool. "I'm trying to keep him from doing something stupid while he's not thinking straight," he growled, scowling. "I took his key to the armory and cleared all the weapons out of his house."
"If he wants to kill himself," Rory warned, "he'll find a way to do it, no matter what you take away from him."
"I know that." His voice was a snap. "I'm just trying to make it hard enough that he'll have time to think about it first." Pinching the bridge of his nose, he squeezed his eyes closed for a moment. When they reopened, he looked calmer. "C'mon, Rory. Help me out here. I just need to get him through the next couple of months. With this whole pendant-and-murder thing, I just want one part of my life not to be dissolving into sh — I mean, crap."
She was silent for a second, unsure if she'd heard him correctly. "Murder?"
"Long story. One you'll hear as soon as I figure out what's going on. Right now, though, I'm more concerned with keeping Julius alive."
Frowning, she tapped her fingers on the counter. Her brain was still focused on the mention of murder. It wasn't something he could just throw into conversation and then ask her to forget. He seemed honestly tortured about Julius's mental state, though, so she decided not to press him for an explanation ... for now, at least. "Fine. But just this once. I'm not going to become your informant about who's packing what."
Ian looked relieved as he echoed her words. "Just this once."
"Good." At his expectant look, she continued, "Julius has been in twice since January. The first time was three days after Suze died, and I told him to get his grieving butt out of here — nicer than that, of course." A little nicer, at least. "The second time was last week. He wanted a handgun, and he wasn't too choosy what kind. That raised all kinds of red flags, even more than were already up and flying. Before Suze got sick, Julius would come in here and talk guns for hours." She met Ian's somber eyes. By the look in them, she could tell she wasn't saying anything he hadn't already suspected. "I know he wouldn't pass the background check at any legitimate dealer, but I didn't want him to start hunting around for a private sale. So I told him I'd already special-ordered a Springfield 1911 TRP for him. He'd mentioned wanting one a while back. I said I'd requested a standard-length recoil spring guide and plug system instead of the two-piece, full-length guide, so it might take a little extra time to arrive. I figured I'd hide it in back for a few months after it got here, or at least until Julius showed up sober. And started showering again."
Ian was quiet for several seconds, his expression unreadable. When he suddenly strode toward her, she jerked in surprise, knocking the stool out from under her and almost falling. Ian caught her, pulling her into a fierce hug.
All she could do was grunt in response, since shock and his tight grip had squeezed most of the air from her lungs.
"I'm trying to be there for him," Ian said, his breath warming the top of her head. "I really am, but it's hard. He's either drunk off his ass or won't leave his bedroom, and I have to keep reminding myself that he's just lost his wife. Sometimes I'm so tempted to shake him and tell him to quit acting like an idiot, but then I feel guilty for being impatient. But, Jesus, I just lost my mom. I can't lose anyone else." Rory felt a few strands of her hair flutter as he exhaled shakily. "Sorry. Don't mean to dump this on you."
His grip loosened, and he stepped back.
Once her arms were free to move again, she didn't know what to do with them. How were normal people supposed to act when their friends were obviously hurting? Should she give him a conciliatory pat? Rory mentally swore at her impaired social skills. She blamed isolation and home schooling — well, that and the fact that her parents had been full-blown nuts.
Instead of offering him any kind of sympathetic gesture, she settled for an awkward smile.
"It'll get easier," she babbled. "For Julius, I mean. Uh, and you too. It doesn't feel like it's going to at first, but it eventually does. After my parents —" She closed her mouth abruptly, appalled that she'd almost dumped a messy load of emotions on Ian Walsh, of all people. Sure, he was her friend, but he was also her perfect, gorgeous, unattainable, long-term crush, and he didn't need to know exactly how messed up she was.
"After your parents ...?" Despite his nudge for her to finish her sentence, Rory pressed her lips together.
"Never mind." Her gaze darted around the shop as she wished desperately for someone to arrive. She'd even be happy if Billy came storming in with Zup in tow. "Did you need anything else?"
When he didn't answer right away, she risked a glance at his face and immediately wished she hadn't. He was looking at her in that way he sometimes did, like his X-ray vision could see all the way to her hidden, insecure, terrified depths. Rory quickly shifted her eyes to the glass beneath her tapping fingers. Seeing the SwissMiniGun nestled in the display case settled her. After Ian finally left, she decided, she would pull out the Glock 21 that had been brought in that morning for cleaning. The familiar process would be soothing.
"No." The belated answer to her question made her jump. "But since when did I need a reason to visit?"
"You don't. Of course you don't. I'm just ..." She didn't know how to finish that sentence. She was what? Panicked? Clueless? Socially stupid? Silence stretched until it moved beyond awkward and into agonizing.
Excerpted from Fan the Flames by Katie Ruggle. Copyright © 2016 Katie Ruggle. Excerpted by permission of Sourcebooks, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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