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Lone Defender

Lone Defender

4.2 11
by Shirlee McCoy

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When private investigator Skylar Grady finds herself abandoned in the Arizona desert, she knows two things. First, her "simple" case tracking a deadbeat dad has someone spooked. Second—that someone will kill to keep her off the trail. So even when her rescuer, former patrol agent Jonas Sampson, wants her to leave, Skylar knows she's staying. No one


When private investigator Skylar Grady finds herself abandoned in the Arizona desert, she knows two things. First, her "simple" case tracking a deadbeat dad has someone spooked. Second—that someone will kill to keep her off the trail. So even when her rescuer, former patrol agent Jonas Sampson, wants her to leave, Skylar knows she's staying. No one gets rid of her that easily. If Jonas wants her safe, then he'll have to stick by her side. But her new partner is a mystery, too—one Skylar will risk her heart to solve.

Product Details

Publication date:
Love Inspired LP Suspense Series
Edition description:
Large Print Edition
Product dimensions:
4.10(w) x 6.60(h) x 0.60(d)

Read an Excerpt

Dying shouldn't be so difficult.

At least, in Skylar Grady's estimation it shouldn't be.

The way she saw it, if it were her time to die, she should be allowed to go quickly. No fuss. No muss.

No wandering through the wilderness for days.

Her time to die?

No way did she plan for it to be that. Then again, she hadn't planned to get lost in the Sonoran Desert, but there she was. Lost.

She frowned, forcing herself to keep walking toward the shadowy mesa. A couple more miles and she'd be there. God willing, civilization would be on the other side. It better be, because six days with no food and minimal water had taken its toll. Much as she wanted to deny it, truth was truth. If she didn't find her way out soon, she wouldn't find her way out at all.

And that would be a shame. Not just because Skylar would be dead but because it also meant that the guy who'd drugged her, driven her out into the desert and left her to die would get away with it.

That definitely wasn't how Skylar planned for things to play out.

Unfortunately, she wasn't sure she had much of a choice in the matter.

Desert wilderness stretched out as far as the eye could see. No roads. No buildings. Nothing but an endless landscape of cacti and low-lying desert scrub, with the mesa in the distance. It's all she'd seen since she'd left her jeep, everything she had lived, breathed and felt for six days. She wanted out with a desperation that left her hollow and empty inside.

If there wasn't something or someone on the other side of the mesa…

She pulled her thoughts up short. Going there wouldn't help things. She had to keep walking, keep moving and, above all, keep hoping.

Lightning flashed in the distance, and the quiet rumble of thunder followed. Another storm. Was it the third or fourth since she'd made the decision to leave the rental jeep she'd woken in?

Did it matter?

Another winter storm meant water. Water meant life.

Her foot caught in thick desert scrub, and she fell hard, her breath leaving on a painful gasp. She forced herself up again, shivering as icy wind seeped through her T-shirt. Warm days. Cold nights. Sunburned skin and bone-deep chill. They'd taken their toll, and she wanted to rest more than just about anything.

But not more than she wanted to live.

Not more than she wanted justice.

And she did want that.

Someone had tried to kill her. She was going to find out who, she was going to find out why and she was going to smile when her would-be murderer was thrown in jail. First, though, she had to survive.

One trudging painful step after another to the mesa.

That was the only way to do it.

All around her, the night throbbed with energy and life; creatures moving in the darkness. Slithering, creeping, jumping creatures.

Were there wildcats in the desert?

Skylar didn't know, and she didn't want to find out.

Something shifted in the blackness, a deep shadow against the darkness. She blinked and it was gone, leaving nothing but a stillness that made the hair on the back of her neck stand on end. Something was out there. Something that was stalking her through the blackness. Skylar was as sure of that as she was of anything. Something or someone.

Maybe the guy who'd left her to die had returned to make sure she'd done so.

She crouched low, not taking her eyes off the spot where the shadow had been, her hand skimming the ground. A weapon. Any weapon. That's what she needed.

But there was nothing.

No thick tree branches.

No heavy rocks.

She grabbed a fistful of dirt, her heart thumping a hard irregular beat, the desert pulsing with tension from something she couldn't see, but knew was there. Endless seconds passed, each moment a lifetime.

Please, God, let it be my imagination.

A figure appeared inches from where she crouched, stepping from blackness so suddenly Skylar was sure he'd disappear just as quickly.

She reached out, her fingers brushing a leather boot.


He was real.

"Skylar Grady?" His voice was smooth and deep, and Skylar didn't bother asking what he wanted. No way was this guy part of a search-and-rescue team. If he were, he wouldn't be alone. She jerked back, letting the handful of dirt fly before breaking into a sprint. Endless desert stretched out around her with no hope of rescue or safety. She knew it, but she ran anyway.

Please, Lord, get me out of this alive. Please.



The prayer chanted through her mind, matching pace with the frantic thrum of her pulse. Something snagged her shirt, pulled her back and she went fighting, swinging her fists the same way she had when she'd been a runty freshman in a high school overflowing with drug dealers and gang members.

"Cool it, Grady. I'm not in the mood to have my face beaten in." The command barely registered, and she swung again, her fist connecting with a rock-hard jaw.

"I said cool it." There was no heat in his words, and he grabbed her arm, pulling it behind her back with just enough pressure to hold her still.

"Let me go!" She stepped back, trying to unbalance him and loosen his grip, but he was as solid and unmoving as a mountain.

"I'm thinking your boss wouldn't be happy if I did that. Neither would I. I've lost and found your trail a dozen times these past couple days. I lose it again, and you may be lost for good."

"My boss?" She stilled, her heart beating too rapidly, her breath spilling out in great heaving gasps.

"Kane Dougherty. He's an old college friend. He called me the day before yesterday. Asked me to take part in the search-and-rescue operation that was launched to find you." His grip loosened, his hand smoothing up her arm and resting against her neck. "Take a deep breath, before you keel over."

"I'm not going to keel over." But she inhaled deeply, trying to force her racing heart to slow.

"I'm not sure I believe you. You've been out here for six days. That's a long time." His hand dropped away, and then he was in front of her, his eyes gleaming in the darkness.

"Long enough for people to stop looking for me. I haven't seen a search plane in two days, and then it was too far away to see me. I thought for sure I was going to have to find my own way out of here." She dropped onto the ground, relief making her light-headed.

Maybe she was going to pass out.

"They haven't stopped looking, they've just scaled back."

"Because they're looking for a body?" It made sense, but that didn't mean she wanted to hear it.

"It happens all the time. People drive into the desert to take pictures of the scenery, and they

don't realize how unforgiving the terrain is. They get lost or hurt, and they run out of supplies."

"Look, buddy—"

"Jonas. Sampson."

"Look, Jonas, I didn't drive myself out here. Someone drove me. I didn't choose to go on a six-day sojourn. Someone else decided to send me on one."


"I don't know, but as soon as I get back to civilization, I plan to find out."

"You didn't see him?"

"I didn't see anything. I was out cold."

"Then, I guess the next question would be, 'Why?'"

"That's another thing I plan to find out once I get back to Cave Creek. So, how about we get in your jeep or truck or whatever you rode in on and get out of here?" She shivered, adrenaline fading and leaving her colder than she'd ever felt before.

"Sorry. No truck. No jeep. I track people on foot. Makes it easier to follow their trail."

"You're kidding, right?"

"No. Here." He crouched beside her, slid out of his backpack and pulled a jacket from it. "You'd better put this on. It's going to get a lot colder."

"Thanks." She put on the jacket, tried to zip it closed, but her hands were clumsy from too many days with no food.

"Let me." Jonas brushed her fingers away, his knuckles skimming her jaw as he pulled up the collar around her neck. Warmth lingered where his hands had been, and Skylar could feel it seeping into her.

Surprised, she shifted away, trying to see him through the blackness. Dark hair that was a little long and a little shaggy. High cheekbones. Eyes that could have been any color. He looked like an ancient warrior, and for a moment she wondered if she'd imagined the feel of boot leather, the conversation, even the scent of soap that hung in the air.

She reached toward him, realized what she was about to do and let her hand drop away.

"You okay?" he asked, and she nodded.


"Good. There's a storm blowing in, and we need to find shelter for the night." He offered a hand and pulled her upright.

"Five nights out here was plenty. How about we find shelter in town?"

"There's no way Phoenix Search and Rescue can send a helicopter for us until morning. No way we'll make it out on foot. Like it or not, we're stuck here until dawn."

"Then I guess we'll be walking all night, because there is no way I'm going to bunk down and accept my fate." She started walking, and Jonas pulled her to a stop.

"Even if we walk all night we won't reach the highway before morning, and there's no way you're going to make it that long."

"I've been walking for days. One more night won't hurt me." Her teeth chattered on the last word, and she rubbed her hands up and down her arms. She felt cold to the bone, tired to the core. Every muscle in her body ached, but if it meant a hot meal, dry clothes and a warm bed, she'd walk all night.

"That's what most people probably think before the desert takes them." "Nice, Jonas."

"I'm not nice. I'm realistic. You probably haven't eaten in a week and if you make it another mile, I'll be surprised. So, how about we do things my way? We head to the mesa, find some shelter and hunker down until first light." He handed her a water bottle, and she took a long swallow, letting the lukewarm liquid pour down her parched throat. Her hand shook as she wiped moisture from her lips, her stomach heaving in protest. Empty. That's what she was running on, and as much as she wanted to deny it, Jonas was right.

Her brain might be telling her to keep going, but her body was giving out. Quickly. As much as it aggravated her to depend on anyone, she'd have to follow Jonas's lead in this. "All right. Let's do this your way."

Meet the Author

Award winning, multipublished author Terri Reed discovered the wonderful world of fiction at an early age and declared she would one day write a book. Now she's fulfilling that dream by writing for Love Inspired. She is a member of both Romance Writers of America and American Christian Fiction Writers. You can visit her online at www.terrireed.com or email her at terrireed@sterling.net or leave comments on http://craftieladiesofromance.blogspot.com/ or www.loveinspiredauthors.com

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Lone Defender 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Jutzie More than 1 year ago
Lone Defender by Shirlee McCoy ISBN: 978-0-373-44456-4 Book 4 in Heroes for Hire. Deserted in the Desert to Die, Why? That is what Skylar Grady is asking herself after being in the desert for six days. She had been on assignment for Information Unlimited to find a dead beat dad. She flew out from New York to Cave Creek, Arizona and had been going in circles for a week trying to connect with Daniel Redmond. It should have been a simple case. Instead she was accosted in her motel room, drugged and parked in the middle of the desert to die. She was stronger than that. She had survived gun shot wounds and she would survive the desert, because someone would pay for trying to kill her, she would have justice. Jonas Sampson was doing is friend, Kane Dougherty, a favor by searching for his lost employee. Six days in a desert that would scorch you in the daytime and freeze you at night was too much. He believed he was searching for a body to give Kane closure. Instead he finds the stubborn spitfire alive, barely. He also finds she has a posse of men after her and that she was not lost but left out here. Thus starts their adventure. First to get her out of the desert alive and than he was going to send her New York, she had other plans. No matter what happened to Skylar or who told her to go home, she was not leaving without her answers. She had been drugged and left in the desert, shot at and more but it was beginning to look like she had a new danger in Jonas and the danger was to her heart. She always dreamed of a happy family but after a betrayal by her fiance and then by her partner she lost her dream. Shirlee likes to pair up stubborn woman who won't stay down with alpha males who want to protect them. Jonas fights even harder to protect Skylar as he was not able to protect his wife and unborn son four years ago. And than he gave up a job he loved as Border Patrol but helping Skylar shows him that maybe he is not using his God given talents as he was meant to. He is also seeing that maybe he could love again and begin to look towards the future. Another great book in the Heroes for Hire series. **Book received through NetGalley for review.
kimba88 More than 1 year ago
Lone Defender is, a contemporary romance sprinkled with a faith based message. I love PI mysteries with a touch of romance and this book fit the bill. A former New York police officer, protagonist Skylar Grady has been burned both on the job and in love. Skylar is getting her life back on track, when she takes on a case to track down a deadbeat Dad. Her questions in a small Arizona town end up putting her in danger. Her rescuer, former patrol agent Jonas Sampson has his own set of demons. Together the two of them set out to solve the case. I really like Skylar. She has a spunky attitude and survives on sheer will power. Unwilling to see tragedy repeated Jonas feels an overwhelming sense of responsibility to protect her. I found myself rooting for them. This was a fast paced easy read and the perfect romance novel for a fall afternoon. Thank you to netGalley and Harlequin publishing for this ARC in exchange for my unbiased review.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Awesome story! Would like to see more with these two characters!
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jarose93 More than 1 year ago
This book will keep you wondering who to trust! You will not want to put it down till you've finished it. Shirlee McCoy will make you feel the struggle the main character are going through.
LASR_Reviews More than 1 year ago
If you were drugged and woke up in the middle of Sonoran Desert, what would you do? Skylar got up and attempted to walk out. This author has a long list of books she has written, but this is the first one of hers I have read. I was impressed by this one, so I will be looking for more of her work in the future. Ms. McCoy creates two strong characters who have had sorrow in their lives. Skylar is an ex-cop whose partner and fiancé were dirty. She was forced to kill him and barely survived her own injuries in the gunfire that resulted. She can't believe she couldn't see him for what he was and is determined not to jump into any new relationship, doubting her own judgement. She's now a private investigator. Jonas was a border patrol agent whose wife and unborn child were murdered because he was good at what he did. When Jonas finds Skylar and attempts to get her transported out of the desert, they suddenly find themselves the target of a number of gunmen who want them dead! These two characters are spirited, feisty, stubborn and determined; they clash. The banter between them is what makes reading this story so much fun. The author has a Christian theme included, but it fits the story as the two wounded characters try to move away from the past and towards the future. They have to survive the present to get there, though! Ms. McCoy writes a good, action packed story with witty repartee and danger all around. Jonas is determined to protect Skylar; she's determined to take care of herself. It's hard to tell who's going to win that contest. You'll keep turning pages to see what happens to Skylar next and hoping that the two main characters will survive so they can have a relationship. This also happens to be a pretty good mystery, even if the romance seemed more important to me. Why don't you give it a read and see what you think? Originally posted at the Long and Short of It Romance Reviews
rhonda1111RL More than 1 year ago
I realy enjoy reading lone defender. Its a clean romance and survival story. It starts out in the deseret with Skylar Grady she has been trying to get out of the deseret the last 6 days. Skylar woke up alone in a jeep somewhere in a deseret. She has walked and walked she wants to live to find out who is trying to kill her. She is in bad shape. When at night she sees someone else and he calls her name she tries to run from him and fight but then he names her boss Kane and that he had got him to look for her. Jonas Sampson got a call from a college buddy to go look for her. He thought he would find a body but he was willing to track her so he would have closure. Jonas has been a tracker and border patrol up until 4 years ago when wife and unborn child was murder as payback for jonas stopping drugs and guns smuggled in. He is now a contracter. When he realizes that someone brought her out in the deseret to have her die so it looked like her fault not murder. He realizes that the group he has seen out thier is up to know good. So they try to get somewhere for shelter out of weather and they can have protection someone else pops up and tries to kill her but they get gun away and skylar at the end of her rope but somehow she is able to get strengh and they climb up a mesa to a cave he knows and rests thier. Till the group following them gets to mesa and they finsh climb and keep going till daylight when rescue chopper gets them out. Jonas tries to get Skylar on a plane back home to her boss, but Skylar is determined to find out who is trying to kill her. Skylar used to be a cop till her partner shoots her in order to protect the bad guys and with three wounds she is left with only desk job so she becomes a private detective and the only case she is working is a guy who owes back child support. Skylar relies a lot on prayer and her faith keeps her going. Skylar and Jonas start to look into her missing guy to find out whos trying to kill her. She has more attemps to take her life. Jonas starts to get his faith back and realizes he ready to get back to his old job that he is good at. They fall in love and keep trying to protect each other. I would read more of Shirlee McCoy's books. It was a mystery ,love story,survival, good over bad,faith and action story. I was given this ebook in exchange of honest review.