"You can't go wrong picking up a Susan Fox book." Romance Reviews Today
In her latest contemporary romance, Susan Fox welcomes readers back to Caribou Crossing, the ruggedly sexy Western town that seems made for starting over. . .
Brooke Kincaid knows second chances don't come cheap. She's spent five years repairing past mistakes and making her life in Caribou Crossing steady and predictable. But now a stranger's Harley has shattered her fence and her peace of mind in one swoop. Brooke is drawn to everything about wounded undercover cop Jake Brannonhis raw masculinity, his tenderness, and the undisguised desire that makes her feel more alive than she's ever been.
By rights, Brooke should curse Jake for complicating her life. Instead she's offered him a place to heal and a cover story as he searches for a wanted man. Jake knows she's vulnerable, but she's also strong, kind, and hotter than hellfire. It's a combination that could make even a die-hard loner long to put up his boots and put down roots at last, and show her just how good a second chance can get. . .
"Smart, sexy, funny and touching. I loved this book!" Susan Wiggs on Home on the Range
About the Author
Award-winning, international best-selling author Susan Fox (who also writes as Savanna Fox and Susan Lyons) is a Pacific Northwester with homes in Victoria and Vancouver, British Columbia. She has degrees in law and psychology, and has had a variety of careers, including perennial student, computer consultant, and legal editor. Fiction writer is by far her favorite, giving her an outlet to demonstrate her belief in the power of love, friendship, and a sense of humor. Visit her website at www.susanfox.ca.
Read an Excerpt
Gentle on my Mind
By SUSAN FOX
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2013 Susan Lyons
All rights reserved.
Brooke Kincaid hung up the phone and hugged herself. Beaming, she danced a few steps across the kitchen floor in time to Glen Campbell's "Wichita Lineman," the song playing on Caribou Crossing's country-and-western radio station. Her marmalade cat, Sunny, watched from a windowsill, tail twitching, golden eyes asking a question.
"A grandmother!" Brooke told him. "I'm going to be a grandmother."
Well, in fact she'd become a grandmother last fall when her son, Evan—newly returned to Caribou Crossing—married Jessica and became stepdad to her daughter, Robin, a wonderful ten-year-old. But now Jess was pregnant!
Oh Lord, Jess was pregnant. Brooke stopped dancing as all the fears rushed into her mind. Would Evan let her near the baby, given what a terrible mother she'd been to him? And would the baby be okay? What if Evan did have a predisposition for bipolar disorder even though the disease had never manifested itself in him, and he passed it on to the baby?
Sunny yowled, breaking Brooke's train of thought. He hopped down from the sill and came to wrap himself around her ankles.
The gesture calmed her, and so did bending to stroke his sun-warmed fur. She'd acquired Sunny four years ago as a rescue cat, but the rescuing really worked the other way around.
"You're right," she told him. "I need to focus on the positive." Evan and Jess had made the decision to have a child, they knew about her own bipolar and alcoholism, and the decision was theirs to make. And yes, of course they would let her be involved. Her son had called her right away, the morning after Jess had shared the news with him and Robin. Brooke beamed again, remembering the joy in his voice.
As for her, at the age of forty-three she'd been granted a second chance, and she'd do things right this time.
She was fourteen when she got pregnant. Naively, she'd expected a pink-and-white girl doll, but what she'd received was a bellowing, demanding boy-child. She had messed up royally with Evan, and she blessed him for being generous enough to forgive her.
After ten years of estrangement, she had her son back, plus a wonderful daughter-in-law, a delightful granddaughter, and now a brand-new baby on the way. No clouds of worry were going to spoil this amazing day.
Johnny Cash's "I Walk the Line" came on the radio and she smiled. "So do I, my friend, so do I." She had stayed sober, gone to A.A. meetings, and taken her bipolar meds for almost five years. Now, she had even more motivation.
She ran her hand down her cat's golden coat and tugged gently on his tail. "It's all good, isn't it, Sunny?"
He pulled his tail from her grip and narrowed his eyes in mock annoyance, then began to purr.
Brooke laughed at his game. Until Evan had come back, she hadn't laughed—not this way, with genuine pleasure—in at least a dozen years. Now laughter came easily. "Life just couldn't be more perfect," she told the cat, reaching out to stroke him again.
But Sunny's ears twitched and he shook her hand off. His hair rose, his eyes slitted, and he stared intently into space, at nothing visible to her.
Jake Brannon clung desperately to the handgrips of his Harley, fighting to stay conscious. He'd been losing blood for going on an hour now. Thank God for the fierce pain in his side; it helped him focus.
When he'd made his getaway he'd left his helmet behind, and now the wind made his eyes water and whipped strands of hair across his face. He squinted to see the road. It twisted away in front of him like a snake. A rough-skinned snake. Every time he hit a pothole the bike jerked and a fresh wave of pain radiated from the wound.
He hoped to hell the bullet wasn't still in there. If only he could stop to examine the injury and staunch the bleeding. But the man in the black truck was chasing him, and by now there were probably others.
His own fault. He'd been sloppy. Should have been in and out without anyone seeing him. Should be back in his motel room right now, sound asleep. Instead of riding the never-ending snake in the frail light of dawn toward, toward ...
Damn, he was losing focus again. Where the hell was he? He'd avoided the highway in hopes of evading his pursuers, but the roads out here in the middle of British Columbia's Cariboo country were a maze. Would he ever find his way to the Gold Rush Trail Motel, to the sanctuary of that kitschy little room where sepia photos from gold rush days decorated the walls?
Jake narrowed his eyes against a pale rising sun. The sun was off to his right, which meant he was riding ... north? He groaned. His brain was so damned fuzzy.
The bike's tires skittered over a spill of gravel and jounced into another hole. Pain slammed through him and he let loose with a string of curses. The wind whipped them away, and he imagined them streaming behind him in a series of little balloons like the speech in cartoons.
Focus, damn it. Best as he could figure, he needed to head northeast. The sun rose in the east, and the sun was hitting the corner of his aching right eye, so northeast had to be straight ahead. As the crow flies. If only the Harley were a crow ...
Straight ahead. He tried to grasp that thought and hang on to it. But damn, his vision was as blurry as his mind. He blinked but the view got foggier, not sharper. There was something white ... vertical white shapes marching in a row straight ahead of him. A fence? Oh Jesus, the road curved and he was heading straight for a fence!
He tried to yank the bike around the curve, but his sweaty hands had no strength. His world was turning gray and he was barely aware of the bike going down, spilling him free. Screaming pain roused him momentarily as his leg and hip scraped along the road. His head hit next and the gray turned charcoal. He heard his bike crash into something, and then the engine abruptly cut out.
His eyes closed and the blackness took him.
"Sunny, what's wrong?" Brooke asked, just as the peaceful country morning was shattered by a horrible screech of metal, then a crash. Not metal on metal but metal on ... wood?
Wood? "My white picket fence!" She dashed to the front door, flung it open, and darted down the steps in her bathrobe and flip-flops.
A huge black motorbike was jammed partway through her fence amid a confetti of shattered white wood. Where was the rider?
Brooke rushed through the gate and found him sprawled on the gravel verge of the road, facedown, like a broken, abandoned toy. He was dressed in black—sneakers, jeans, and leather jacket. No helmet over that tumble of shoulder-length black hair.
Mo. He looked just like Mo. She flashed back to the age of fourteen, when she'd been utterly fascinated by the sexy nineteen-year-old bad boy. Back then, she'd had no idea how bad he'd turn out to be.
"Get a grip," she told herself. This man was not Mo, and he might be dying. She had to call 911. But what if he died while she was phoning?
Staring at the biker, she forced herself to take a deep breath. Although she'd taken a first-aid class, she couldn't remember a blessed thing. Another breath. She had to control the crippling panic.
Pulse. Yes, make sure he was breathing. If not, she'd have to start mouth-to-mouth and CPR.
Kneeling, she stroked his hair out of the way and slipped two trembling fingers around his neck to press against his throat. His pulse leaped strongly, so strongly that she jerked back in shock. Then she let out her breath in a low whistle of relief.
The man groaned and his body moved convulsively, turning so he lay on his back.
No, despite having bronzed skin, he didn't look like Mo, who'd been half Indo-American. He didn't look like a thuggish biker either. In fact, he was strikingly handsome, with strong, carved features. His mouth, framed by a dark beard, added contrast with full, sensual lips. If she'd had to administer the kiss of life ...
Her cheeks burned. The thought of touching a man's lips with her own was shocking. It had been more than fifteen years since she'd shared any degree of physical intimacy with a man. Her ex-husband had soured her on men so thoroughly that she was positive she'd never be attracted to another one.
And yet there was something enticing about this particular face, this mouth.
She shook her head briskly, trying to recall the checklist the first-aid trainer had taught them. Immediate danger. Make sure he wasn't in immediate danger.
There was blood—he'd scraped himself up pretty badly—but no arterial spurts. He wasn't bleeding to death. He wasn't likely to be run over either, as he was well onto the gravel shoulder of the road. This end of Wellburn Road was quiet, down past the entrance to Bly Ranch. Her little patch of rented land was on Jessica's parents' ranch, and past her there was only Ray Barnes's place and a couple of other small spreads. Horses and riders often used this road, and people knew to drive cautiously.
So the motorcycle man was in no immediate danger. Now she needed to assess his injuries so she could tell the ambulance crew what to expect.
She studied his sprawled body. No broken limbs, as far as she could see. Head injuries? She rested her fingers gently on his skull and his eyes flickered open.
They were unfocused, dazed. An intriguing shade of gray with hints of blue and mauve. Wood smoke, she thought, on an October day. Gentle, dreamy eyes, belying the beard and black leather.
"Hello," she said. "Can you hear me?"
The muscles around his eyes twitched as his gaze sharpened. She read confusion, pain—then something that looked like fear. And then anger. Wood smoke turned to storm clouds.
When Jake's eyes first opened he figured he'd died and gone to heaven. Lord knows why a sinner like him would end up there, but a fair-haired angel was peering down at him. His vision was still blurry but he could see that her eyes sparkled blue-green like a tropical ocean. Rose-petal pink lips opened and she said something, but he was so entranced by her face that he didn't catch the words.
He wanted to reach out and touch a strand of that curly golden hair and see if it felt as silky as it looked. Or maybe she was a vision with no substance and his hand would slide right through her. The thought that he might never touch his angel almost made him cry.
No, damn it, that was pain that brought a rush of moisture to his eyes. Pain, shrieking through his body. He couldn't isolate it, couldn't assess his injuries; he was on fire in so many places. He wasn't dead—or if he was, this was hell, not heaven. What the fuck had happened? He must have been hit by a semi. No, he'd been riding his bike.... And it crashed. But he was a good rider....
Ah, now he remembered. He crashed because he'd been shot. He'd messed up when he snuck into the grow op in the dark hours before dawn. Someone had heard him, come after him, shot him. He'd barely made it to his bike and escaped.
Hellfire and damnation! Drug traffickers were after him and if they found him they'd kill him. If he was right, one of them was the man who'd murdered Anika, the teen prostitute whose body had been tossed in a Dumpster down in Vancouver.
His body was in agony, a killer was after him, and his angel was either a hallucination or a real live woman he was somehow going to have to deal with. He had three choices: cry, scream, or cuss. For a man, that narrowed down to one. He let loose with a string of curses.
She froze like a terrified animal poised for flight.
He studied her more closely, realizing his vision had sharpened. Now he saw the fine lines around her eyes and mouth. The angelic face was older than he'd thought, and fear etched the lines even deeper. Damn it, she really was scared of him.
The black leather, the bike, some foul language ... Did she think he was a member of a biker gang like Hell's Angels or Death Row?
Her eyes closed briefly, and when they opened their expression was calm. The tension in her muscles eased as she breathed deeply. But Jake sensed she hadn't truly relaxed; she was disciplining her body to hide her anxiety.
"I can see you're conscious and more or less lucid," she said evenly. "I'll go call for an ambulance."
An ambulance. Hospital, doctors, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. He suspected the killer he sought was a prominent, supposedly respectable member of this community. Maybe even a member of the local RCMP detachment. Caribou Crossing was a small town; chances were, this woman knew the man. His angel might even be the devil's woman. Maybe that was why he made her so nervous.
Shifting her weight, she started to rise.
His hand shot out and grabbed her arm. "No!"
She tried to pull away. Under his firm grip, she was trembling.
He was sorry to hurt her, sorry to scare her, but he had no choice. He had to keep his presence in Caribou Crossing a secret or it'd blow the undercover operation. No police; no hospital; no drug-dealing murderers. No one could know that he—Corporal Jake Brannon, working U/C for the RCMP—was here.
Except that angel-face already did.
Suddenly she yanked hard, almost pulling her arm from his grasp.
The movement jarred his entire body, and pain made him gasp and bite his lip. She was strong for such a slender, gentle-looking woman.
She jerked again and agony weakened his grip. Exploiting his weakness, she wrenched herself free and scrambled backward.
He had to stop her from reaching the phone. There was only one way.
Struggling to stay conscious, Jake fumbled for the Beretta in the shoulder holster under his jacket. He pointed it at her. "Stop, or I'll shoot you."
She froze, swaying on her feet.
Grimly he wondered which of them was going to pass out first. "Get back here."
After a long moment, too long for his sanity, she stumbled toward him.
He felt powerless lying there, his only weapons a firearm he would never use against her, and the force of his own personality. But he knew she was afraid of him and he had to play on her fear. "Kneel down." He needed her close, where he could read her face.
She obeyed, her movements jerky. "I was just going to call an ambulance." Her gaze flicked between his face and the Beretta.
"Don't call anyone."
"But you're hurt. You need help."
"I don't need doctors or cops."
She glanced at the firearm again, her eyes wide, and he could almost hear her brain working.
"Got it?" he said.
"You're an escaped criminal!" She spat out the words.
He'd miscalculated; somehow he'd tipped her past fear to anger. When he'd cussed and grabbed her arm she'd been scared, but now she was glaring at him like she'd love to get her hands on his firearm and shoot him between the eyes.
She might get her chance, because his vision was blurring again, his world once more fading to gray. He had to control her. Now. And fear was the key.
He shifted position and got a firmer grip on the Beretta. The movement hurt his side, but the bright edge of pain helped him focus. "If you call anyone, talk to anyone, you'll regret it." Trusting her was not an option. Even if it had been, he didn't have the time, the strength, to explain. He might pass out at any moment, and then she'd have the Beretta. He needed a threat that would bind her even if she got his firearm.
What did every person value the most? Their life.
"They can lock me up, but not forever," he hissed. "I'll get out and come after you."
"Then get it over with and shoot me now," she dared him, and he saw it had turned into a battle of wills. She was stronger than he'd expected. His beautiful, feminine angel was strong. It made her even more appealing.
God, his mind was drifting again. Focus, man! Her strength could endanger his mission. He had to find a threat that had meaning to her. "Your family. Everyone you love. If you betray me now, I'll kill your family. I won't be in jail forever. I'll come back."
She flinched as if he'd struck her, and her face went dead white.
Thank God. He'd found the right threat. She had family and she loved them. The threat was a complete lie, but she had no way of knowing that. To her, he was a violent criminal on the lam with a gun he had no qualms about using.
He was so exhausted he could barely think. Was there anyone else in her house? No, or they'd have run outside, too.
Excerpted from Gentle on my Mind by SUSAN FOX. Copyright © 2013 Susan Lyons. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Do you remember a emily the fox?
Had my attention all the way through. Hard to put down.
Gentle on my Mind By Susan Fox Copyright: September 2013 Publisher: Zebra Contemporary Romance Brooke Kincaid knows second chances don’t come cheap. She’s spent five years repairing past mistakes and making her life in Caribou Crossing steady and predictable. But now a stranger’s Harley has shattered her fence and her peace of mind in one swoop. Brooke is drawn to everything about wounded undercover cop Jake Brannon—his raw masculinity, his tenderness, and the undisguised desire that makes her feel more alive than she’s ever been. By rights, Brooke should curse Jake for complicating her life. Instead, she’s offered him a place to heal and a cover story as he searches for a wanted man. Jake knows she’s vulnerable, but she’s also strong, kind, and hotter than hellfire. It’s a combination that could make even a die-hard loner long to put up his boots and put down roots at last, and show her just how good a second chance can get... Brooke has worked hard to change the minds of her neighbors and prove that she’s changed, and moved beyond being the person they knew for many years. Having what to her appears to be a gang banger biker crash into her fence (with requisite bullet wound) is not helping her peace of mind. Let’s not forget the fact that even with his gruff exterior and threats of mayhem if she doesn’t do what he wants, she’s finding feeling for him that she has not felt in ages. Jake is an undercover cop who is now in trouble and must let this strange woman help him without giving himself away. Together they will both find out things about each other and themselves that will hopefully make them both better and stronger people. Factor in Brooke’s son and family, and the extended family and you have not only a mystery but a romance that will keep you spellbound from the first page to the last. I found the characters to be believable and compelling (having a cop for a son in law, and a cousin who spent his career in Military Intelligence made it easy). FTC Full Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher who only asked for a fair and impartial review.