Noah Marshall has known a privileged and comfortable life thanks to his mother, the highly decorated chief of the Austin Police Department. But all that changes the night she reveals a skeleton that's been rattling in her closet for years, and succumbs to the guilt of destroying an innocent family's life. Reeling with grief, Noah is forced to carry the burden of this shocking secret.
Gracie Richards wasn't born in a trailer park, but after fourteen years of learning how to survive in The Hollow, it's all she knows anymore. At least here people don't care that her dad was a corrupt Austin cop, murdered in a drug deal gone wrong. Here, she and her mother are just another family struggling to survive...until a man who clearly doesn't belong shows up on her doorstep.
Despite their differences, Noah and Gracie are searching for answers to the same questions, and together, they set out to uncover the truth about the Austin Police Department's dark and messy past. But the scandal that emerges is bigger than they bargained for, and goes far higher up than they ever imagined.
Complex, gritty, sexy, and thrilling, Keep Her Safe solidifies K.A. Tucker's reputation as one of today's most talented new voices in romantic suspense.
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Read an Excerpt
Keep Her Safe
Corporal Jackie Marshall
“There’s gotta be a pound in each.” Abe nudges the ziplock bag of marijuana with the tip of his pen. The kitchen table is shrouded in these bags, along with bundles of cash. I’m going to take a wild guess and say there’s plenty more, hidden around this dive of an apartment.
I peer over at the guy we just busted, handcuffed and lying on his stomach, under another officer’s watchful eye, waiting to be transported for booking. He’s a scrawny nineteen-year-old with a temper. “Don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t be beatin’ on my girlfriend if I had all these drugs in my house.” His neighbors heard glass smashing and him making threats of death, so they called 9-1-1. He gave us cause to kick in the door when he uttered a string of racial slurs and then spat in Abe’s face. That’s how we found the bloodied blonde girl and this.
Now the paramedics are treating the gashes on her face, while we wait for Narcotics to swoop in.
Abe smooths his ebony-skinned hand over his cheek. “What do you think this is worth, anyway?”
“Depends how good it is. Ten grand? Maybe twenty?”
He lets out a low whistle. “I’m in the wrong business.”
“You and me both. We bounced our mortgage payment last month.” Blair told me we couldn’t afford that house. I ought to have listened to him. But I also hadn’t planned on getting pregnant when I did. Not that I regret having Noah. I just expected to have earned a few stripes before I was elbow-deep in diapers and formula.
“Don’t worry, you’ll be making the big bucks soon enough, Sergeant Marshall,” Abe mocks with a dimpled grin. He’s been calling me that for months, ever since I passed my test and was put on the promotion list. “Just don’t go forgetting about us beat cops when you start pinning those stars to your collar.”
“You’re ridiculous.” I roll my eyes at him.
“Am I? You are one damn ambitious woman, Jackie, and my money’s on you over half the clowns around here, present company included.” He sighs. “My days won’t be the same, though.”
“I’m gonna miss being your partner, Abe.” After seven years, there’s no one else I trust more in the APD—and in life—than Abe Wilkes.
He lets out a derisive snort. “Don’t worry, you’ll see me plenty enough. Heck, Noah’ll probably be at my house more than yours.”
“Dina’s managing alright, what with a baby of her own? Don’t want Noah to be a burden on her.”
Abe waves off my concern. “Dina’ll steal that kid away from you if you’re not watching. She insisted.”
I can’t be sure if it was Dina or Abe who offered to mind Noah while Blair and I work. I’ve never seen a grown man dote on a little boy as much as Abe dotes on mine. Even Blair doesn’t pay that much attention, and Noah’s his son. “That beautiful wife of yours is a blessing. I wish you’d have knocked her up and gotten married years ago. Would have saved me a ton on daycare bills.”
Abe struggles to keep that booming chuckle of his at bay—it wouldn’t be appropriate given current surroundings. “I’d say we’re movin’ plenty fast, don’t you?”
Pregnant three months into dating and married at City Hall the week after finding out? I’d say so. “Your mom come around yet?” A good Christian woman like Abe’s mother was less than pleased when she found out her twenty-eight-year-old son had knocked up an eighteen-year-old girl. An eighteen-year-old white girl. I’ve met Carmel Wilkes. I don’t believe she has an issue with Dina, per se; she’s more worried about other people taking issue with Dina and Abe together, and the problems that may arise. As progressive as Austin is, there’s still plenty of hate to go around when it comes to the color of a person’s skin.
Abe shrugs. “Slowly but surely.”
“I’ll bet that gorgeous little Gracie is helping.”
It’s inevitable, the second anyone says his daughter’s name, that Abe’s face splits open with a wide grin. He’s about to say something—probably tell another story about how cute she is—when our radios crackle with voices.
“The cavalry’s here.” I pat my stomach. “Good thing, too. I’m starving. Let’s get this lowlife booked and then get some food.”
“Hey . . .” Abe lowers his voice to a whisper. “I wonder, how honest do you think these narc guys are?”
“Honest enough. Why?”
His chocolate-brown eyes roll over the bundles of cash. “Wouldn’t it be easy for one of those to go missing?”
It’s a question you don’t pose, especially not while you’re in uniform and standing in front of a pile of drugs. “Pretty dang easy, I’ll bet.”
Reading Group Guide
This reading group guide for Keep Her Safe includes discussion questions and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. Who do you think “her” refers to in the novel’s title, Keep Her Safe? Why might K.A. Tucker have chosen this title?
2. Which characters were you initially suspicious of while reading? What led you to be suspicious of them? Did they end up being guilty of what you thought they were?
3. Soon after arriving in Austin, Gracie wonders “What would my life have been like, had my father not died? Would I have grown up in a quiet suburb with gardens and trees?” (p. 210). In what ways do you think Gracie was shaped by the circumstances in which she grew up? Have you ever visited somewhere your parents had lived and wondered who you would be if they’d raised you there?
4. Several characters find themselves, at one point or another, torn between two ideals: loyalty to family or their moral integrity. Discuss how this tension plays out in Abe, Dina, Jackie, and Noah’s storylines. What similarities and differences do you see in how they handle these conflicting principles?
5. Everyone who knew Abe agrees that it would have been completely out of character for him to abuse his power. However, as we see from the end of Keep Her Safe, sometimes people we trust deeply are capable of unimaginable things. In your own life, how do you decide when to trust an accusation of wrongdoing and when to have faith in your existing sense of someone and give them the benefit of the doubt? What do you think it would take for you to believe a close friend or family member had committed a horrific crime?
6. Early on, Gracie finds Noah’s Southern mannerisms patronizing (albeit charming), but ultimately comes to appreciate his protectiveness and politeness. Do you wish men were more chivalrous like Noah, or do you find that attitude frustrating, as Gracie does initially?
7. Canning makes the case that letting a scandal get out would undo “all the goodwill [the police] work hard to build in the community . . . buried under a thick layer of public distrust, thanks to one dirty cop” (p. 355). However, covering up misconduct risks more of the police force being implicated, potentially leading to even more negative public opinions. Is there anything that police officers can do to hold bad cops accountable, without incidentally burning the bridges they have worked to build to the wider community? What would have been the best way forward in this situation—and what consequences couldn’t have been avoided?
8. When Gracie asks Noah if they’d be friends if her father hadn’t died, he replies that he’d “probably be like an older brother” (p. 398) to her. Do you agree? Would they have been too much like siblings to have a romantic connection, or would a spark have grown between them even if they had been close their whole lives?
9. What do you think Noah will do after the novel ends? Will he return to his job at the DA’s office? If not, what will he pursue instead? Will he continue to live in Austin? Will he and Gracie stay together long-term?
10. On page 390, Noah remarks that Gracie and Dina will always be family, “even if Gracie kicks me to the curb one day.” Do you think their relationship could withstand a romantic breakup? Are you still friends with any of your exes?
Enhance Your Book Club
1. Bring some Southern comfort to your book club—have group members bring dishes like cornbread, barbeque chicken or ribs, collard greens or coleslaw, and come dressed in your best Texan-inspired style, whether it’s wearing the largest belt buckle you can find, cowboy boots, or cactus-print clothing.
2. Both Gracie and Noah’s mothers turn to substance abuse to deal with guilt, difficult emotions, and traumatic memories, and Dina’s addiction nearly causes her family to become homeless. Consider volunteering with your book club at a local homeless shelter, rehabilitation center, or addiction support organization. You can search for an organization near you using www.volunteermatch.org.
3. Consider reading one of K.A. Tucker’s other page-turning novels for your next book club meeting. For another thrilling suspense, you can check out He Will Be My Ruin, or if you’re looking for a classic and compelling contemporary romance, your group is sure to love Until It Fades. Visit K.A. Tucker’s website www.katuckerbooks.com to learn more about her and her books, or follow K.A. Tucker on Twitter @kathleenatucker, or Facebook at www.facebook.com/K.A.Tucker.Author.