Welcome to Pistol Rock, Texas where everyone knows secrets last about as long as the sporadic west Texas rain showers.
Laney Briggs has long been considered reckless, but she’s turned herself around—she’s respectably engaged and she’s become a Pistol Rock deputy sheriff. Everything’s fine until a dead body turns up and her ex, Texas Ranger Gunner Wilson, decides to stick his boots into the town’s first murder case.
Laney will be damned if she lets Gunner trample all over her turf and her chance at a quiet, contented life. His seemingly endless ability to undermine her resolve and her libido was only outdone by her constant urge to butt heads with him. But when the bodies start to pile up, Laney has to ask the lethal bad boy for a hand—and a truce in exchange for his help.
Having an ex-boyfriend as an ally might not be the best idea, but Laney has always been pretty reckless…
Author Bio:About Jodi
Jodi Linton grew up across the street from a cow pasture, where she was more likely to been seen selling Kool-Aid in a Dixie cup at ten cents a pop, or inviting neighbors over to watch one of her plays staged on her father’s Bass boat. Even though she never owned one of the bovines, she’ll admit that the smell of cow manure had a lasting effect, making it easy to spot a cow a mile away.
In 2001, she traded in the rednecks, cowboys, and mesquite trees of her hometown to chase destiny out west. After a few years of mucking it around with the roughnecks, dust storms, and droughts, she decided to dust off her boots and head home. With a History degree in one hand and a marriage license in the other, she followed her husband in 2006 to the Texas heartland, fabulous Austin.
Somewhere down the line, she started writing. Maybe it was the boring job search, or maybe it was the crazy characters dancing inside her head that help put pen to paper. Whatever the case, writing sure beat the heck out of working for a temp agency. The first story was about a boy lookalike Indian Jones who chased after vampires in small town Texas. The second story was a YA contemporary about the Grim Reaper, and well half-way through she decided to shuck them both, partly due to the birth of her son, and mostly because she wasn’t awe struck with the premises.
Taking a break from writing to raise her son, she filled the time by reading, and insistently fell in love with mysteries, especially ones with witty, spunky heroines. Four months later, she had a manuscript about a smart-mouthed deputy and her rotten ex-boyfriend dueling it out in small town Texas.
After settling into the Texas Hill Country with her husband and two kids, she joined the Austin Romance Writers of America, and signed with The Belcastro Agency. Today she can be found cozied up to the computer escaping into a quirky world of tall tales, sexy, tight jean wearing cowboys, and a protagonist with a sharp-tongue quick enough to hang any man out to dry.
There’s a good chance she’s brushed paths with a few of her characters, but she’ll never tell, those lips are sealed.
Where to find Jodi
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“Elroy, I need back up.”
“Having trouble corralling the bastards?” he asked, munching on what sounded like a mouthful of chips.
“No, dumb ass. I just found a dead body.”
“Well shit…” his voice faded.
“Elroy,” I shouted, squeezing the radio mic’s hard plastic in my hand.
“Yeah…yeah, Laney,” he responded, “I’ll be right there.”
The line went dead. I shook off the thought that I’d heard someone other than Dobbs in the background and made the burning run back to the guys. Luke had parked himself on the crunchy grass. I plunked down next to him. Stickers poked through the worn seat of my jeans, biting me on my biscuits. His blue eyes immediately drifted toward my chest.
“A little winded, Laney?”
I sent an elbow to his ribs. “Don’t look at me that way.”
“Darling, you used to enjoy it.”
He sent me a look and tossed his arm across my shoulders. There was no use trying to defend myself, so I whipped my head back and waited. The blistering sun pounded my face. I’d given into the idea of a long wait when a black Yukon came billowing across the land. It stopped two feet in front us, screeching tires grinding down the caked dirt. Dobbs jumped out of the passenger side, with Elroy tagging his behind. I would like to say it didn’t get to me, but hell, it pissed me off when I caught sight of that Route 44 soda in Elroy’s hand.
“Come on, you stopped for a coke and didn’t bring me one,” I shouted.
Elroy took a long slurp. “You weren’t at the office.”
I was still glaring coldly at him when the driver’s door popped open. No, it couldn’t be… that son of a bitch. I wiped the bubbles of sweat from my nose and shot to my feet. Then I marched up to him. He’d cocked his black cowboy hat to the side and stuffed his hands into the back pockets of tight Wranglers, stretching the black T-shirt around his big biceps. That damn black rattlesnake tattoo rippled along the hard muscles of his right forearm as he walked to the front of the Yukon. With my stomach climbing up my throat, a spark that definitely didn’t belong there fired in my chest as I watched him kick some dirt then step out in front of me.
“Well,” Gunner Wilson drawled, “if it isn’t Laney Briggs.” He threw a dirty wink at me.
I ignored him, still trying to figure out what the hell my personal Texas Ranger nightmare was doing riding shotgun with Elroy and Sheriff Dobbs. “What are you…?”
“Still tongue tied at the sight of me?”
My blood was blazing as I glared at him. I thought when I’d sent a load of rock salt into my ornery ex-boyfriend’s ass over things I preferred not to think about, he’d never show his face in Pistol Rock again. I’d thought wrong, because holding me prisoner with those deep, assessing brown eyes was the only man who could light my panties on fire in eight seconds flat. We’d duked it out before, and I reckoned this time would be no different. The problem was I had a damn job to do, and folks were watching my every move, making damn sure to jot down each misstep I made. Taking a good step back from the panty-stroking cowboy’s pulse-charging, leathery-vanilla aftershave, I swallowed hard and pulled up my big girl panties to play the part of the deputy I knew I was capable of being. “Why the hell are you here? I thought you were in Houston.”
His grin widened. “I’ll tell you later, sweetheart.”
Dobbs sidled up between us, placing a hand on my shoulder. “Let’s not jump to conclusions, Laney”—he continued the heavy petting of my shoulder—“I invited Gunner to come along on the morning joyride after he wandered into the station looking for you.” He looked at Gunner, smiling. “Don’t you remember me filling you and Elroy in on the Rangers investigating a case out here in Pistol Rock?”
That memo must’ve slipped through the cracks. I nodded anyway, allowing my gaze to linger on Gunner’s sinfully good-looking, rugged cowboy face. He hadn’t missed a beat since I’d seen him last. I, on the other hand, could’ve slapped on an extra layer of foundation and ditched the sheriff’s department issued uniform shirt with “Pistol Rock Sheriff Station” embroidered across my upper left breast.
“Yeah, I remember.” I kept nodding mindlessly as I watched Gunner’s smile grow. This was so not good. I always turned to putty in that Texas Ranger’s hands. He’d been my first lover and, for a while, I was sure he’d be my last, too. That had changed, but Gunner’s effect on me hadn’t. I steeled myself and looked him directly in the eyes. “It’s just that I didn’t figure the Rangers would let him,” I jutted my chin at Gunner, “anywhere near this jurisdiction after last time.”
Dobbs only grunted at that, but Gunner’s deep, throaty ‘I’d do your body good’ laugh threw me off my high horse. I grabbed him by the elbow. Bad move. Just the feel of him underneath my fingers made my heart skip a beat. I steeled myself not to look at the third finger of my left hand where the diamond Nathan had given me seven months ago seemed to stare at me. “Dobbs, will you excuse us?”
Dobbs smiled some more. “I’ve never been one to deny a good old fashioned reunion.”
Give me a break, I thought, tugging on Gunner’s arm.
We trudged across the dead grass, coming to a stop next to a weather-eroded fence post. He inched closer, placing a boot in my personal space. Our eyes locked into that old swoon girl gaze. Once upon a time, I’d stripped him of his tight Wranglers and had my way with my own personal good-timing Texas Ranger, but we’d all grown out of our school yard crushes.
I swallowed down my cotton mouth, took a good step back, rear-ending the termite infested wood, and jammed my finger at Gunner’s broad chest. “If you think for a minute I’m going to let you make my life a living hell again just because you take a notion, you have another think coming.”
He started to flick my finger away but stopped mid-slap, grabbing my hand instead, staring from my ring finger to me. Abruptly, he let my hand fall. “Getting hitched?” he asked, displeased.
“What’s it to you?” I began, but lost my train of thought at the sight of the truck tagged with a white and green Bovine Health Services sticker pushing twenty our way. I’d like to say I didn’t give a hoot that Gunner felt the need to poke his nose in Pistol Rock business. But damn I did. My fiancé was approaching us in that red Dodge Ram. I let out an exacerbated sigh and watched the driver’s door fly open.
Nathan had taken over the local veterinarian practice, Bovine Health Services, after our previous vet, Dr. Beasley, died three years back. I’d met him at the Piggly Mart when our carts crashed into each other. He had asked me where the ketchup aisle was. Two months later, I was engaged. Hard to believe I’d be moving to Dallas after we said “I do”, but still, maybe a fresh start would help mend old wounds. Timing could be such a bitch. Gunner kicking up a cloud of dust this close to my nuptials had really put a hitch in my plans.
Nathan smiled at me, pulled his vet kit out from the truck bed, and walked on over.
“Hi, honey. Heard there’s a few dead cows,” he said kissing me.
I shifted uncomfortably and peered a look Gunner’s way. He was twirling a piece of hay around his tongue and slowly dropping his gaze over Nathan. His eyes narrowed, and then he stuck out his hand.
“Texas Ranger Gunner Wilson. You’ve probably heard of me.”
Nathan reached awkwardly over his equipment to shake Gunner’s hand. “Don’t think I have.”
Gunner’s eyebrow’s raised half an inch. He spit the hay into the dirt and shot to a stand. “You mean Laney here hasn’t told you about us?”
Nathan gave me a narrow-eyed look that let me know he was pissed. I shrugged and pushed the brim of my hat back, shuffling from one boot to the other and crossing my arms over my chest.Damn it, I thought, I don’t have time for this bullshit.
“Nathan, this is Gunner Wilson, an old friend of mine.”
“An old friend,” Gunner snorted. “Hell, Laney, you shot me in the ass.” He scowled at Nathan. “I bet you’re even sleeping in my old bed.”
I desperately tried to keep my cool. Instead, I lost it. “How dare you claim Aunt Faye’s house or anything in it is fucking yours,” I said tightly.
Gunner pinched the brim of his hat, narrowing his dark eyes at me. “You told me you didn’t want me around,” he said mildly.
“Damn you, Gunner Wilson!”
The hard line that had earlier outlined Gunner’s mouth softened as he looked on me with pain-streaked eyes. There’d been a helluva lot more between us than a shotgun load of rock salt and me finding him in our bed with another woman—even after five years, the wound was so raw I thought it would never heal. I sure as hell didn’t want to touch it. I turned and stepped back from the ridiculous fight, glancing at Nathan. He’d cautiously begun to ease a few steps backward from Gunner and me. Never let it be said the man liked to confront an issue head on. That was one of the things that made me gravitate toward him when we met—that don’t ask, don’t tell attitude. Watching him trying to leave me instead of…oh, hell, I didn’t know. But it did make me start to wonder what else he’d back away from when we were married.
I grabbed his arm. “Where do you think you’re going?”
Nathan picked up the black tote bag he dropped and headed toward Dobbs, who was hunched over a stiff cow. “Don’t mind me. I just came to stick my arm up a cow’s butt.”
Stony-faced, I watched him leave, then spun back on Gunner. “You have problems,” I told him.
“Only one,” he said, and pushed past me, shouldering me hard.
For lack of a better option, I fell in line behind him, hating myself for gawking at his tight ass even though I could barely stand him. Dobbs was swatting flies out of his face when we both approached while Nathan rolled a used latex glove off his hand. I’d watched him do this very thing plenty of times before and thought nothing of it—or tried to. This time, especially with Gunner here, the whole idea of where that gloved hand had been just made me squirm. While Nathan wandered off to see, I assumed, if he could spot any reason that so many cows died at once, I watched Gunner strut on over to the dead cows and kneel next to Pacey’s corpse. He peered into the dead boy’s eyes and stood back up, dusting off his jeans. “Looks like the cow tipping party didn’t go as planned,” he observed.
I leaned over the cow shrouding Pacey’s mangled body for a look at his crushed skull. There was a gash in it the width of a horseshoe. Murder then. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted Nathan walking our way. He had his shirt sleeves rolled up to his elbows, his arm was wet, and he had a plastic bag and syringe in hand.
“This was in the watering tanks.” He waved the bag at me.
Gunner reached out and snagged it before I had a chance. He stuck a finger inside, sniffed, and quickly jerked the bag away. “I’ll be damned. That’s poison parsley.” He tugged at his belt buckle and directed his attention at Luke. “Looks like the sort of stupid prank you used to pull in school, Wagner,” he said, “so start talking.”
“Hell, I’m just an innocent bystander. That raving lunatic over there”— Luke flicked his thumb at Bosley—“is the one who shot at me when all I did was ride over to check on Four Spurs cows.”
“Innocent my ass,” Bosley said as he heaved himself up from his spot in the dirt, mumbling to himself. I’d known Bosley Conrad my whole life. I’d seen him chop off a rattlesnake’s head with just a machete during a rattlesnake roundup without batting an eye, but right now, he was sweating more than a hog on the chopping block. He was truly anxious.
“Calm down—” I began, but Bosley was already charged up worse than a long haul trucker at an adult video store. Yelling, he rushed at Luke. Since I was standing between them, I stuck out a boot. Bosley tripped and planted his face in the dirt. He pushed himself up, spitting out muck.
“God damn it, Laney,” he heaved himself upright and lunged at me with open fists. I stepped out of the way of the punch, grabbed him by the arm, and twisted it around his back, making the damn man bite the dirt again. I pressed a knee into the small of his back and flicked open my cuffs. “I thought you said you weren’t going to arrest me.” Bosley looked at me, dumbfounded.
I shrugged. “You assaulted a sheriff’s deputy. Things change.”
I slapped a pair of cuffs on him and started to haul him off toward my cruiser. I still couldn’t fathom the idea of Bosley Conrad being capable of murder. But since I’d been a deputy, I’d found that folks had secrets. There were a lot of skeletons in the closets around Pistol Rock.
“Here, I’ll take ’im,” Gunner said, slipping up behind me. He took Bosley’s arm and ushered him into the backseat of the Yukon and slammed the door shut.
I was mindlessly gazing at Gunner cracking his neck and wondering why in hell I’d just let him hijack my collar when a hand fell on my shoulder, startling me. I spun around to find Nathan patiently standing behind me.
“I’ll see you tonight,” he said, using his fingers to slide a stray lock of hair off my face. “I have a few patients I need to check in on.” He looked at Gunner, then laid one hell of a kiss on me. “I love you, Laney,” he declared loud enough for everyone to hear.
Then he got behind the wheel of his Dodge and pulled away. I stared after him open-mouthed, wishing I had the nerve to wipe away that clearly territorial kiss. Nobody owned me, whether I wore their ring or not. And that meant Gunner.
I turned to nip whatever snide comment he might make in the bud, but caught him watching Nathan go with an odd look on his face before turning to me. Then all he said was, “I’ll see you back at the station, Laney.” He winked and tipped his hat, then slid into the front seat of the Yukon and backed it out of the drive, raising a cloud of dust.
After touching base with Sheriff Dobbs and Elroy, I jumped behind the wheel of the old cruiser. It puttered and choked to a start. I clipped the iron gate with the side mirror as I flew past the entrance and gunned it toward the sheriff station. I’d just been fed a spoonful of horseshit by Gunner Wilson. The damn prick caught me off guard. He really knew how to get under my skin.a Rafflecopter giveaway
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