He was her hero,But one wrong move ended their future before it could begin.Now he'll do whatever it takes to keep her safe,Even if that means turning against one of his own.As a member of the Field County Sheriff's Department, Chris Jennings is used to having it rough. The Colorado Rockies aren't for the weak-of-spirit, but he's devoted his life to upholding the law—and to protecting the one woman he knows he can never have. He'll do whatever it takes to keep her safe.Daisy Little has lived in agoraphobic terror for over eight years. Trapped within a prison of her own making, she watches time pass through her bedroom window. Daisy knows she'll never be a part of the world...until the day she becomes the sole witness of a terrible crime that may finally tear the Search & Rescue brotherhood apart for good.
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“Do you receive any type of therapy for your”—he waved his hand at her room—“condition?”
Nibbling on her thumbnail, Daisy debated whether to refuse to answer him. Her emotional health didn’t seem to be any of the sheriff’s business. Although, she mentally conceded, if she’d witnessed a crime, her stability probably was an issue, especially if there was a trial. Would she be required to attend it?
At the thought, her throat closed, and her breath snagged in her throat. Logic loosened her lungs, though. There were so many other ways she could attend a trial—video conferencing, telephone, even a taped statement. They—whoever the mysterious “they” might be—wouldn’t force her to leave her home. Besides, Daisy didn’t think it was possible for her to exit without strong sedatives.
Despite her mental mutiny, Daisy folded under the heavy authority in his voice. “No. I used to have a therapist come to the house, but not anymore.”
That was definitely none of his business, so she gave him the short answer. “She came from Connor Springs and had a hard time getting here during the winter. Since winter makes up about eleven months of the year…” She shrugged, her words trailing away when the sheriff didn’t look amused at her lame joke. “We tried phone sessions, but they didn’t seem to be helping.”
Daisy doubted it. “Did you have any other questions for me? About what I saw this morning, I mean.”
After eyeing her steadily for an unnerving length of time, the sheriff shook his head. “I’ll call if I need anything else. Have you told anyone besides Deputy Jennings about this?”
“No.” After the denial had escaped, she remembered that she’d shared the whole tale with Lou, who’d probably passed everything along to Callum. Daisy really didn’t want to once again be the focus of the sheriff’s reproving gaze, so she didn’t correct her unintentional lie. Instead, she silently led the way back downstairs. Having the sheriff at her back was not any easier the second time.
“Your house is set up to keep out intruders.” The sheriff’s voice made her jump before she looked over her shoulder at him. Since that hadn’t been a question, she waited for him to continue. “What happens if you need to evacuate?”
“Evacuate?” Even saying the word made her a little dizzy, but she tried to hide her overreaction. “Why would I need to do that?”
“Medical emergency, neighborhood gas leak or meth lab, fire…any number of reasons.”
She paused, a little taken aback by the way he was able to casually rattle off his list of possible catastrophes. The sheriff apparently wasn’t a glass-half-full kind of guy. If she had to guess, Daisy would say that Coughlin was more of a look-for-the-red-dot-from-the-sniper-rifle-on-the-half-empty-glass sort.
“Our first aid kit handles the minor medical stuff. If there was something major, I suppose I’d either be preoccupied by impending death or unconscious, so leaving the house wouldn’t be a big deal.” It felt like a lie on her tongue. Daisy couldn’t imagine not going full-out ballistic if someone tried to force her through the door, almost dead or not. “I’d probably take my chances that you guys”—she gestured toward his badge—“and the fire department could handle the gas leak or, um, meth lab. And I have fire extinguishers all over, just in case.”
He made another one of his short humming sounds, but he didn’t comment on her answer, even though it sounded weak, even to her own ears. Daisy was glad he dropped the subject. She didn’t need to hear about all the potential dangers that could befall her, since she had plenty of demons to deal with already.
“When’s your dad getting back?”
That was a good question, since Gabe should’ve arrived already. She pulled her cell phone out of her pocket and saw she’d missed a text. After she pulled up the message, Daisy made a face. “Not tonight, apparently. The job is going to take an extra couple of days.”
Disappointment spread through her. Not only had she been looking forward to seeing her father, but she had a bunch of out-of-the-house errands she was going to ask him to do. Daisy hated asking Chris. It made her feel so…needy.
The sheriff’s gaze seemed to penetrate right into her brain and pick out her thoughts. “Will you be okay for that long? Do you need anything?”
If she wasn’t going to ask Chris for help, she definitely wasn’t about to ask his austere boss. “Thank you, but I’ll be fine.”
Although he looked unconvinced, he just offered her his card. “Call me if you see anything else.”
“Okay,” she said, although his request had been extremely vague. By “anything else,” did he mean things related to a dead body, or did he want her to call every time Corbin Storvick had a tantrum? Daisy shook off her brief confusion when she realized that the sheriff was waiting for her to unlock the interior door.
“Goodnight, Ms. Little. I hope you’re able to get some sleep tonight.”
“’Night, Sheriff.” As she closed the door behind him, she muttered, “After your little pep talk, I doubt I’ll ever sleep again.”
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.
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