Publisher: Berkley Trade
Caitlyn "Rogue" Walker left her life in Boston to become a teacher in a small Kentucky town. But her dream was shattered when she was framed in a sex scandal. Refusing to be run out of town, Caitlyn shed the identity she had and became Rogue. Sheriff Zeke Mayes knows there's more to her than meets the eye, though what meets the eye is pretty smoking. He's prepared for a long struggle getting Rogue to drop her defenses-and give in to desire. But soon Zeke will become embroiled in a deadly game that sweeps Rogue up in its wake. And when everything seems to be a matter of life and death, there is no reason to hold back...
This is an unedited excerpt
It wasn’t possible.
Rogue sat in a back corner of her bar, stared at the dancers, the drinkers, the bikers and the good ole country boys and girls that filled the establishment she simply called, The Bar. That was what it was. Just a bar. A dance hall. A place to drink. It was the place Nadine Grace and Dayle Mackay’s lackey had drugged her drink almost five years before.
The pieces she had put together over the years suggested they had helped her home. So nice of them. Then proceeded to let Nadine and Dayle into her home where those pictures had been taken.
She had identified the couple within a year. Her father’s friend Jonesy had quietly taken care of making certain that particular couple never came to Somerset again. Something about a drug buy that the police had received a tip on, and a hell of a long sentence for both of them. But her father hadn’t found out, as far as Rogue knew. Of course, Jonesy, her father’s friend and then Rogue’s, had promised her he would make sure her father didn’t know. How he had managed it, she didn’t know. She was just thankful he had.
And The Bar was home now. She owned it. Her father had owned it before her, his last tie to the county that had seen him as nothing but white trash. They saw her as something even less she sometimes thought. Like they saw the rest of the Walker clan like Joe and Jaime.
Running a scarlet fingernail around the lip of the whisky glass in front of her, she tried to beat down the knowledge that here, in this county, the name Walker was, as her father had warned her, well less than sterling. Shiftless was one description. Thieves and gutter trash was another. But Rogue knew her family. Family like Joe and Jaime. They had been filled with laughter, charm. They had a sense of fun inside them that didn’t correlate to the nine-to-five lifestyle others held so highly.
Jaime was steady in his friendships, his laughter. He liked to get drunk and raise a little hell on Saturday nights, and he loved the women. Joe had been just like him. Neither of the two men had a cruel or mean bone in their bodies. They weren’t conniving and they had never a stolen a thing in their lives.
And now, they were gone.
She had been at the hospital when their sister, Lisa had told Grandmother Walker that the boys were dead. A light had gone out in the old woman’s eyes.
Her head lifted at the sound of her bartender’s voice at her side. Lifting her gaze, she met her bartender, Jonesy’s compassionate look.
Jonesy eased his burly body into the seat beside her, his hazel eyes somber as he watched her.
She liked Danny ‘Jonesy’ Jones. A biker with a heart of gold, a mean assed temper, and a head like a brick. An accident had cut back on his cycling and given him a limp, but he was still as tough and as no-nonsense as he had been when she first met him five years ago.
“Kent watching the bar?” She looked over to the long teak counter filled with customers.
“Kent and that new girl, Lea. She’s a good ‘tender.”
Rogue nodded. Lifting her shot glass she tossed back the aged whisky, let her lashes flutter at the burn then placed the glass back on the scarred table.
“Got a call,” he told her then. “Alex Jansen’s fiancée. Said to tell you the sheriff is heading this way. She’s worried ‘bout you. Asked that you call her tonight.”
See, that was the problem with friends, they wanted to know every damned thing. Where your head was, where it was going, what you were thinking and what you were feeling. She’d made the mistake of making friends with Janey Mackay and her sister in law, Chaya last year. Big mistake. Never mess with Mackay’s, she reminded herself.
“I’ll call her back later.” She shrugged.
“Sheriff will be here soon.” His thick forearms crossed on top the table. “Zeke aint no man’s fools, Rogue. Or no woman’s. If he’s askin’ questions, then something’s wrong.”
She shook her head at that. “No. He’s just making sure. He’s anal like that Jonesy.”
She poured herself another drink, sipped at the liquid this time and stared into the full dance floor. Normally, she would have been out there herself, dancing, laughing,
pretending. Always pretending.
“They were good boys, Rogue.” He patted her hand awkwardly and scowled down at her. “You did your best for them girl, even when I told you they were gonna come to a band end with all their womanizing. You can’t ask more than that from yourself. Whatever happened up there with them, it’s not on your shoulders.”
Maybe she hadn’t done enough. Joe and Jaime with their laughter and their devil-may-care attitudes. Maybe she had missed something, been too busy, too self involved to see something that could have saved them.
She couldn’t figure it out. She just couldn’t make it make sense. That was why she was sitting here at a dark table staring into the smoky atmosphere of her bar rather than scandalizing the county as a hostess at the most exclusive and notorious restaurant in the town, Mackay’s. She was here instead, hiding, hiding from the false condolences and the questions she knew she would receive elsewhere.
She was a Walker. White trash, gutter guzzling sleeze was but one of the nicer descriptions she’d heard. She’d laughed in public over it, sometimes, she shed tears in private and wondered why the hell she stayed.
Pulaski County wasn’t the center of the universe she had told herself countless nights. She could return to Boston, teach anywhere she wanted to teach, and escape the mountain bred hypocrisy and cruelties she had known here. But even in Boston, she had never fit in.
And Boston didn’t have Sheriff Zeke Mayes.
God she was such a fool. If any man had ever proven he had no intention of touching her, then it was Sheriff Mayes. He stared at her sometimes as though the very thought of being around her was horrifying. And then, there were times, times his brown eyes had darkened further, his lashes had lowered and she could see the hunger he thought he was hiding from her.
There were times she wanted to crawl into him and just lay against him. Nights she dreamed of being wrapped in those strong, muscular arms. And there were nights she actually faced the truth that even if it ever happened, it would never last. And she wondered which was worse? Never having? Or having and losing?
“You’re worryin’ me girl,” Jonesy finally sighed. “Sittin’ around drinkin’ and reflectin’ aint your way. You’re action. Remember that? You don’t mope and feel sorry for yourself, we taught you better than that, remember?”
Her lips tilted. ‘They’. The little mountain bikers club that didn’t even have a name. Thirteen overgrown teenagers in men’s and women’s bodies who had known her father at one time or another, rallied around her and taught the too-soft little schoolteacher how to be the rogue she had been named for.
They had been regulars at the bar. They had seen the couple she had left with that night, and they had helped her plot her vengeance against them. They had sheltered her for the first year beneath their protection, and they had taught her how to be tough. How to fight. How to laugh at the insults and how to grow up.
“I’m fine Jonesy,” she promised him. “Just a little mellow.”
She sipped at the whisky. She didn’t drink it often. It took a certain mood, a certain anger to allow her to enjoy liquor. She was a beer girl, until the anger overflowed her control and she had to face more than she wanted to face.
“A little too mellow to be facing that sheriff.” Jonesy pulled the whisky bottle out of her reach with a temperamental scowl. “You never face your enemy weak, girl. I taught you better than that.”
“Zeke’s not my enemy.” But she didn’t reach for the bottle again.
Zeke wasn’t her enemy, but he was her weakness. He made everything inside her weak, made her ache and heat, and made her wish for things that she knew she couldn’t have.
“Sheriff Mayes is gonna break your heart,” Jonesy warned her with a hint of anger. “Pull yourself up here now. He’s gonna be here soon, and you don’t want to see him while you’re feeling sorry for yourself and missin’ those boys.”
She shook her head, almost smiling. That was Jonesy. Never let them see you bleed. And she was bleeding. She could feel it, from a wound inside her heart that she couldn’t seem to close.
She shook her head. “Joe wouldn’t shoot Jaime,” she said softly. “Neither of those boys would have ever hurt each other Jonesy, let alone anyone else.”
“If there’s something more involved then I have no doubt Sheriff Mayes will find it, girl,” he grumbled, his voice becoming more fierce. “Come on Rogue. He’ll be here any minute. Pull yourself out of this or you’re gonna hate yourself in the morning. You know how you always end up kicking yourself whenever you let Mayes see you weak.”
She was always weak around Zeke. It was a fact of life. Like taxes and breathing.
“Go tend the bar, Jonesy,” she sighed. “I’ll be fine.”
Jonesy stared at her for long, silent moments. Rogue could feel his worry and his anger. Jonesy always worried about her and it always managed to piss him off. And tonight after he closed up, he’d probably call her father and her parents would worry then too. If she wasn’t careful, her father would end up on her doorstep and then talk about stirring up some stink. The closest he’d come to Somerset since leaving it so long ago was Louisville. She always met him there. God help her if he ever actually came here.
Jonesy rose to his feet. His heavy hand gripped her shoulder for a second in a tender hold before he heaved out a hard breath and moved through the crowd, back to his bar.
Zeke was coming, and she was weak. He would be here soon, and she felt lost and alone and uncertain. She hated feeling that way, she avoided him at all costs when she felt that way, because she wanted nothing more than to curl against his broad chest and make all the darkness that seemed to surround her, go away.
As though he could do that.
She finished the whisky in the glass, capped the bottle and motioned to the waitress to take it away before rising to her feet.
Four inch heels were like a second skin to her feet. Vivid red to match the scalloped lace edges of the scarlet camisole she wore beneath her black sleeveless leather vest. It was paired with a short leather skirt that showed off her legs and flashed her upper thighs. Flipping back the riotous red gold curls that flowed over shoulder, she drew in a hard breath and made her way across the bar to the door that led back to the kitchens and the steps to her upstairs apartment.
She wasn’t facing Zeke while the customers of the Bar watched on. Jonesy would direct him upstairs.
Would he come in uniform she wondered? Or in those thigh hugging jeans and loose shirts that always made her mouth water. She wanted to strip him so damned bad she could barely breathe for the need when he was out of uniform.
She didn’t want to even consider what he did to her when he was in uniform. She tried to ignore the wicked little urges she had then, because it was a hell of a lot worse than without uniform.
Maybe it had something to do with those handcuffs hanging on the side of his belt she thought mockingly as she made her way up the stairs to her apartment. Yeah, had to be those handcuffs. She had some interesting fantasies where those were concerned.
Unlocking her apartment she pushed it open and stepped inside. The lights were on. She left them on because she didn’t like the dark. She and her friend Janey Mackay were a lot alike in that regard. The dark was a lonely place to be for Rogue.
The large open living room and kitchen greeted her. Spotlessly clean, because she really didn’t spend much time in her so called home. The dark brown leather couch and chairs were comfortable, the scarred coffee table was an antique she hadn’t had time to refinish. Or perhaps just hadn’t made time. There was something about those scars of time on it that appealed to her.
The double doors into her bedroom were open, a low light on her bed stand shining into the room. And it was quiet. So quiet.
Maybe she needed a cat. A cat would at least meow at her when she came in, or so Janey had assured her.
Shaking her head she paced over to the tall, wide windows and drew a curtain back enough to stare into the parking lot below. Just in time to watch Zeke Mayes pull into the lot in the full sized farm pickup he drove when he wasn’t on duty.
Hell. He was going to be in civilian clothes.
She watched closely as he parked, opened the door and stepped out beneath one of the bright lights shining overhead. Her mouth watered.
A long sleeved white button up shirt was tucked into snug jeans. She thought he might be wearing boots. There was the glint of his badge on the pocket of his jeans. He wore it like that sometimes, and she thought it was the sexiest damned thing she had ever seen.
She wondered where his handcuffs were?
Her fingers clenched on the material of the curtains as she felt herself heat at the sight of him. She might be a virgin, but she knew all the signs of arousal and a night that was most likely going to involve toys of some sort.
Her clit was swollen, the bare folds of her sex felt flushed and damp. Her nipples were peeking beneath the camisole and vest and she could felt that nervous little flutter attacking her stomach and thighs. Just the sight of him was enough to sensitize her body.
It was lust. Lust was a powerful force she reminded herself. It couldn’t have anything to do with the need to just curl into his arms and rest there. That was weakness, not lust. It was loneliness. She had separated herself from most friendships, she hadn’t allowed herself a lover because she couldn’t have the lover she wanted. So comfort wasn’t something she knew a lot about. But it was something she missed more often than not.
Running her hands down the sides of her skirt Rogue pulled back from the window and drew in a deep, hard breath. She could almost feel him moving closer. Through the bar, his shoulders brushing against the women who would crowd closer, just to feel the heat and hardness of his corded, muscular body.
She closed her eyes, remembering the feel of him herself. The way his body seemed to wrap around her when he almost, just almost brushed against her. Zeke always made certain he didn’t actually touch her unless he had no choice.
The jarring ring of the phone had her eyes jerking open. Frowning, she pulled the cell phone from the clip at her side and flipped it open after checking the number.
“Sheriff wants to talk to you,” he growled. “You in?”
Her lips almost twitched at his protectiveness. “Yes Jonesy. Send him on up.”
Jonesy grunted and she could almost see the wrinkles in his brow as he frowned.
Flipping the phone closed she laid it on the table by the couch and moved to the door. She opened it, pulled it wide and moved back to the kitchen for a bottle of water. Something to do with herself as she waited. To calm herself, to settle her vulnerabilities until she could re-establish her shields.
Joe and Jaime’s deaths had thrown her. It had left her drifting, uncertain, questioning too many things in her life. The twins were two of the few people she had allowed herself to care for in the past years. She kept most people at a distance simply so they couldn’t hurt her, so they couldn’t be used against her to hurt her. It was easier that way. Easier on her heart and on her life.
Damn, she hadn’t realized how much she had let herself care about people until today.
“Leaving your door open like this could be dangerous.” Zeke’s dark voice filled the room as she reach inside the fridge for the bottle of water.
She paused, closed her eyes and took in a deep, hard breath before clenching the water and pulling back. She turned to face him, letting the fridge door close as her eyes met his.
They were eagle fierce in his sun darkened face. His dark brown hair was cut short, almost military short. There was the lightest sprinkling of gray at his temples. It was sexy.
Those damned jeans molded to his thighs. The fabric of his shirt was just a little loose but did nothing to hide the power of his broad chest and shoulders. And yes, he was wearing boots. Scarred work boots. The kind just made a man’s legs look strong and sturdy.
“I knew you were coming up.” She shrugged. “Close the door behind you.”
He stood there, staring at her.
“Unless you’re scared to be alone here with me.” She moved slowly through the kitchen area to the livingroom. “Afraid your reputation will suffer, sheriff?”