About the Book
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…
George Holloway has spent his life alone, exploring the treacherous beauty of the Colorado Rockies. He’s the best survival expert Search and Rescue has, which makes him the obvious choice to lead Ellie Price through deadly terrain to find her missing father. There’s just one problem—Ellie’s everything George isn’t. She’s a city girl, charming, gregarious, delicate, small. And when she looks up at him with those big, dark eyes, he swears he would tear the world apart to keep her safe.
With a killer on the loose, he may have no choice.
Ellie’s determined to find her father no matter the cost. But as she and her gorgeous mountain of a guide fight their way through an unforgiving wilderness, they find themselves in the crosshairs of a dangerous man in search of revenge. And they are now his prey…
Squinting against the glare of the sun reflecting off snow, Ellie fumbled for her sunglasses. In Denver, the tulips and daffodils had poked their heads out of the ground already, and the day’s temperature was supposed to hit seventy degrees. Who knew the mountains still had snow?
Then again, the peaks were white, which could’ve been a clue. She slowed her rental car as she approached a curve at the base of the pass where a flashing sign warned of possible ice on the road. It felt as if she’d reversed time two months during the two-hour drive from Denver. Maybe she should’ve splurged and rented an SUV at the Denver Airport rather than the more economical compact.
She sped up again as the road straightened. Although she’d been tempted to head to Simpson as soon as her shift at the boutique had ended the evening before, Ellie had gritted her teeth and bought a plane ticket—at a price that made her wince—for a flight leaving early the following morning. After being on the road for close to three hours, she was desperate to stop. It was already past noon, though, and she had only another day and a half to find her father and return them both to Chicago. Besides, there wasn’t anywhere to stop. The high plains stretched in waves of white in all directions, the barren landscape unbroken until it bumped up against the surrounding mountains. Ellie carefully kept her gaze on the road so the emptiness, the feeling that she was the only person alive in this achingly lonely place, wouldn’t reduce her to a useless, terrified heap.
Steering around another looping turn, she saw signs of civilization just as her GPS announced that she’d arrived at her destination. She slowed as she started passing structures—a feed store, a gas station, a ratty-looking motel—and then she abruptly turned the rental into the parking lot of a small building. A large sign above it introduced it as The Coffee Spot.
Her body craved a shot of caffeine almost as much as it desired a restroom, and this place would most likely offer both. She parked the car between two pickup trucks. As she got out of her rental, she eyed the vehicles that bracketed her. They loomed over her, making her car look miniature.
The air was thin and cold, despite the sun. Shivering, she wrapped the open sides of her cardigan around her. The single-button style was cute, but she would have appreciated several more buttons at the moment.
She closed and locked her car, then took a step toward the shop. Without warning, her heeled ankle booties slid out from under her, flying up in the air and sending her crashing onto her butt. The blow jarred her tailbone painfully, and she took a moment to shake off the shock of the fall before taking inventory. Except for her throbbing coccyx, all her other body parts seemed to be unharmed. She shifted to her hands and knees on the slick, packed snow.
An enormous hand appeared in front of her face. Startled, she glanced up at the person connected to the offered hand, first taking in his booted feet and working her way up his legs and torso before finally landing on his bearded face. He wasn’t a man; he was a mountain.
The mountain was frowning, and Ellie realized she was rudely staring at her would-be helper. “Thank you,” she rushed out, grabbing on to his gloved hand. As her fingers curled around his, she took in how small her hand looked in comparison to his oversized mitt. It reminded her of how her car appeared next to the pickups.
He pulled, easily lifting her to a standing position, and she scrambled to get her feet underneath her. The icy footing was unforgiving, and her free arm swung wildly until she latched onto the stranger’s other hand. When she finally got her balance, she still clung to him, not wanting to let go of her anchor and start flailing again.
After several seconds passed, though, it started to feel a little awkward. “Sorry,” she said, reluctantly loosening her grip. “And thank you. I’d be flat on my back again if it weren’t for your help.”
He didn’t release her now-limp hands. Ellie looked from his frowning face to her captured fingers and back again.
“Uh…I think I’m okay now. You can probably let me go.”
Apparently, the mountain didn’t agree. Still gripping her hands, he dropped his frowning gaze to her booties.
“I know.” She grimaced, interpreting his look as silent criticism of her footwear. “These were the closest thing I had to winter boots, though.”
His hands finally dropped hers, and Ellie pasted on a polite smile, ready to give the giant a final thank you and very slowly shuffle her way to the coffee shop door. Before she could open her mouth, though, his hands latched around her waist, and he lifted her as if she were a doll.
Her thank you turned into an indrawn shriek. “What are you…? Put me down!”
Ignoring her order, he took several sure-footed strides toward the entrance of the shop and set her on the mat in front of the door. Then, without a word, he turned and walked to one of the trucks.
Openmouthed, Ellie watched as he got into the driver’s seat and drove out of the lot, not even giving her another glance. When the truck disappeared, she blinked and turned toward the door. A small group of people crowded around the glass door and window, staring at her. Startled, Ellie took a step back, and everyone inside hurried to turn away from her.
Ellie waited another few seconds as the people inside the shop pretended like they hadn’t been watching the whole time she’d been carried to the door by a mountain.
“This is a weird town,” she muttered, and pulled open the door.
About the Author
When she’s not writing, Katie Ruggle rides horses, shoots guns, and travels to warm places where she can scuba dive. A graduate of 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.