Raised by a family of survivalists, FBI agent Mercy Kilpatrick can take on any challenge–even the hostile reception to her homecoming. But she’s not the only one causing chaos in the rural community of Eagle’s Nest, Oregon. At first believed to be teenage pranks, a series of fires takes a deadly turn with the murder of two sheriff’s deputies. Now, along with Police Chief Truman Daly, Mercy is on the hunt for an arsonist turned killer. Still shunned by her family and members of the community, Mercy must keep her ear close to the ground to pick up any leads. And it’s not long before she hears rumors of the area’s growing antigovernment militia movement. If the arsonist is among their ranks, Mercy is determined to smoke the culprit out. But when her investigation uncovers a shocking secret, will this hunt for a madman turn into her own trial by fire?
Truman drove toward her apartment, wishing she would come home with him. She’d said she wanted to be home for Kaylie, to make sure she got up in time for school in the morning. He’d known it would be tough dating a woman with a teenager. Kaylie was pretty self-sufficient, but Mercy had a need to be available for the teen. He had to get over it; the girl had just lost her father.
But sometimes he wanted Mercy to himself.
“Thanks for the ride. You didn’t have to come to the hospital.”
This is enough!
Fury shot through him, and he took a deep breath as he pulled over to the side of the road and turned off the ignition. They were a few blocks from her home. He turned toward her in the SUV’s driver’s seat, his heart pumping and frustration rushing through his limbs. “Why shouldn’t I give you a ride?”
Wide eyes blinked at him. He had her attention.
“Eddie could have driven me. He was already there.”
“Maybe I wanted to drive you. I wanted to be at the hospital.”
“No buts. Don’t tell me what I feel.”
“I didn’t want you feeling obligated.”
“I know Eddie had to convince you to let me know about the accident.”
She glared. “That little—”
“He didn’t tell me. Jeff did. Eddie mentioned it to him and Jeff told me when I called him.”
She threw up her hands. “Why is everyone talking about me behind my back?”
“Because we care!” He shoved the words through his clenched teeth to keep from shouting at her.
She opened her mouth to reply, but slammed it shut as she stared at him in the dim light of the cab.
“Why is it so hard for you to let people take care of you?” he asked in a normal voice.
“I don’t need to be taken care of,” she snapped. “I’m an adult.”
“Taken care of isn’t the way I should have phrased it . . . Why is it hard to let people do nice things for you? Why didn’t you want me to know about the accident?”
“Because I knew you’d leave work, and it’s important that you do your job. People rely on you. Cases need your attention. Important cases.”
“You’re important too.”
“But I had Eddie. Why did I need two people to respond? How many people was I supposed to notify that I’d screwed up and gotten run off the road?”
“It wasn’t your fault, and I want you to always call me when shit happens to you.”
A passing car’s headlights illuminated the inside of the SUV, making her green eyes shine. Are those tears?
“Why is this so hard for you?” he asked, gently taking her hand. It was like holding ice.
“I don’t rely on other people. I rely on myself.” She paused for a long moment. “If I wasn’t able to rely on my family—people who are supposed to love me unconditionally—how can I rely on someone I barely know?” Her words ended in a whisper.
Text copyright © 2017 Kendra Elliot, Reprinted with Permission from Montlake Romance
Kendra Elliot is the award-winning author of numerous books, including the Bone Secrets and Callahan & McLane series. Kendra won the 2015 and 2014 Daphne du Maurier awards for Best Romantic Suspense, and she was an International Thriller Writers finalist for Best Paperback Original and a Romantic Times finalist for Best Romantic Suspense. She has always been a voracious reader, cutting her teeth on classic female heroines such as Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, and Laura Ingalls. She was born, raised, and still lives in the rainy Pacific Northwest with her husband and three daughters but looks forward to the day she can live in flip-flops.