Title: Fan the Flames
Series: Search and Rescue book 2
Author: Katie Ruggle
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Upcoming Release Date: June 7, 2016
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…
As a Motorcycle Club member and firefighter, 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, Rory Sorenson. 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, and for the past few years, she’s managed to keep the peace between dangerous factions by remaining strictly neutral. But when she defends herself against a brutal attack, Rory finds herself catapulted into the center of a Motorcycle Club war—with only Ian standing between her and a threat greater than either of them could have imagined.
The server arrived with their food, and Rory was so relieved by the interruption that she could’ve leapt over the table and kissed her on the mouth. Instead, she settled for thanking her with a little too much fervor.
“You’re welcome,” she said, although she gave Rory a wary glance.
Rory shoveled brisket in her mouth so she wouldn’t continue revealing how ignorant she was about relationships. After a few bites, she realized that Ian hadn’t started eating. Instead, he was still watching her thoughtfully.
“What?” she asked through a mouthful. Obviously, filling her mouth with food was not going to stop her from embarrassing herself.
“You were homeschooled, right?” he asked, finally taking a bite. His gaze stayed on her, though.
“Yes.” She focused on sliding her fork into her greens. The question felt like a criticism, but she knew she was sensitive about her lack of social skills, so she tried to keep the defensive scowl off her face. Ian was probably just asking to get to know her better. Wasn’t that why people went on dates? Or non-date dates?
“Did you go to college?” Even though they’d met over a decade ago, they’d been able to be friends only after her parents had died. She supposed there were still lots of things they didn’t know about each other.
“I didn’t go away to school, but I’ve taken some online classes. Mostly business ones—marketing, accounting, that type of thing. Stuff that can help me with the shop.”
“Huh.” That one syllable was loaded with meaning.
Narrowing her eyes, Rory turned her head to look at his profile as he studied his plate. “What?”
His gaze met hers. “Have you ever had a boyfriend?”
Her blush returned. She kept holding eye contact, but it was hard. She forced a shrug, hoping it appeared casual. “Not really.”
Rory answered with another shrug. She turned back to her plate, stabbing her fork in a piece of meat.
After a short silence, he asked, “Have you been on a date before?”
The unchewed food went down with her panicked gulp, painfully scraping her esophagus and making her choke. Ian slapped her on the back with enough force to shove her toward the table and almost plant her face in her plate of food. Coughing, she turned her head to glare at him.
“Is that what you consider first aid, Mr. Fireman?” she rasped between coughs.
He lifted one shoulder. “It worked. You’re not choking anymore.”
“No thanks to the body blow,” she said, taking a drink of water. Her throat still ached, but the positive part of almost choking to death was that it had changed the topic, and she didn’t have to answer his humiliating question.
“So, is this your first date?” he asked, and she almost growled.
“You okay, Rory?” For the second time that evening, she was tempted to kiss someone who’d interrupted them. This time, it was Winston Early, the fire chief, standing by their table. The lines on his usually cheery face drooped a little with concern.
“Fine, Chief,” she told him with a smile. It was impossible to be rude to Chief Early. It’d be like kicking a puppy.
After a close scrutiny of her face, he returned to his normal jolly self. “Good. How’ve you been? I heard you had an unwelcome visitor a few nights ago.”
Her molars clamped together. Everyone in town seemed to have a direct line into the details of her life. Still, this was the kindly chief, so she tried to sound as nonannoyed as possible. Rory thought she probably partially succeeded. “Yes. I think that’s over with, though.” She ignored the quiet scoffing noise from Ian. “Stop into the shop when you get a chance. The Mossberg is ready to be picked up, and I just got in a Colt Peacemaker I think you might like.”
His eyes lit with interest even as he winced. “If I bring home one more, I’ll be sleeping on the couch indefinitely. Doris called me a gun hoarder the other day.”
“Okay.” Rory held back a smile. “Feel free to stop in and just look at it though. It’s really pretty. Ivory grips.”
Squeezing his eyes closed as if he were in pain, Early groaned. “You’re the devil, Rory Sorenson.” Pivoting around, he took three steps away from their booth before tossing over his shoulder, “I’ll be in tomorrow.” Then he stomped back to his table, where Doris was waiting.
Ian huffed a laugh. “You’re like the antimarriage counselor.”
“Not really. Doris is okay.” She gave Mrs. Early a little wave. “She doesn’t really hate his guns. Doris just knows she’s the only thing keeping his addiction in check. If she didn’t fuss over every gun he bought, there’d be no holding him back. They’d end up living in a tent in the yard, because their house would be so packed there’d be no room to even move.”
He didn’t laugh at that like she’d expected. Instead, his gaze turned distant. “There are worse addictions than gun collecting.”
It was clear where—or to whom—his mind had gone. “Julius isn’t doing any better, huh?”
Rory grimaced. “Sorry.”
“Has he been in the shop this week?” When she shook her head, he turned back to his food, jabbing at his meat as if it had offended him. “Figured. Don’t think he’s left his armchair for days. Someone’s supplying him with booze.” A muscle in his cheek flexed as he poked at his food some more.
Completely at a loss about what she should do, Rory reached out to pat his forearm awkwardly. He went still under her touch, and she wondered if he felt the same surge of awareness she did whenever he touched her. The moment stretched as they stared at each other. His focus on her was so complete, so intense, it felt like the imaginary spotlight that followed Ian had turned its beam on her. For a short time, she believed that she was the center of Ian Walsh’s universe, and it felt wonderful—and terrifying. The clatter of a dish broke the spell, and she pulled back her hand, returning it to her lap. Heavy silence covered their table, and she looked anywhere but at Ian. For some reason, people had been interrupting them for the entire meal. Why had everyone chosen now to leave them in peace?
Seriously, Rory thought, smiling at an expectant waitress, the people in this town have the best timing.
About Katie Ruggle:
When she’s not writing, Katie Ruggle rides horses, shoots guns, and travels to warm places where she can SCUBA dive. Graduating from the Police Academy, Katie received her ice-rescue certification and can attest that the reservoirs in the Colorado mountains really are that cold. While she still misses her off-grid, solar- and wind-powered house in the Rocky Mountains, she now lives in Rochester, Minnesota near her family.