NY Times & USA Today Bestselling Author
Discovering your ex is a serial-killing religious zealot would put anyone off dating for a good long while. That’s where Hudson “Taco” Vines’s head is at when he meets Koren, a woman who looks a little too much like his ex for comfort. But he can’t deny their attraction, and the more he gets to know her, the more Taco realizes how different Koren is from his ex, in all the best ways. It’s not long before he’s feeling things for her that he’s never felt for anyone, ever. After the drama of his last relationship, maybe this is his reward…a supportive, comfortable life with a woman he’s coming to love.
Koren Garner is no fan of drama, and it certainly seems Taco and his friends have all seen more than their share. So you’d think meeting him for the second time at the scene of her own car accident would be enough to warn her away. But Koren can’t resist the sexy firefighter. A little drama might be worth the risk…even when an unknown threat starts targeting Taco’s friends. Someone’s setting fires, and the danger’s escalating with each blaze. Koren and Taco can only pray the culprit is caught before their relationship—and their lives—go up in smoke.
Taco first met Koren at the grocery store where Quinn introduced them. He really doesn’t want to be fixed up with anyone and Koren had a resemblance to his serial killer ex. The next time he sees Koren, he’s on the job.
A horrific accident one where the outcome usually isn’t good, but there were definitely angels in play here.
This is a favorite scene.
“Oh, sorry…did you say anything other than getting me out?” she replied.
“Nope. All you have to do is relax. Let me and Mick do all the work. We won’t drop you and we’ll do our best to make this as painless as possible. But you need to let me know if anything hurts while we’re moving you. I mean it. If you feel any pinching or shooting pains—or if you feel nothing at all—tell me immediately, and we’ll stop and reassess.”
“Okay. I can do this. Can I ask something first?”
“What’s your name? I know Mick will be hanging on to my hips, but I didn’t get your name.”
Taco mentally smacked himself in the forehead. That was one of the first things he usually did. Introduced himself.
“I’m Taco. I’m with San Antonio Fire Station number seven.”
“Yeah, it’s a nickname. What’s your name?”
“Koren Garner. And I’m pretty sure we’ve already met.”
Taco momentarily froze at hearing the name.
Yeah—he wasn’t about to forget the name Koren anytime soon.
His sense of urgency, already high, kicked up a notch. And it didn’t help when he heard raised voices from nearby talking about a ruptured gasoline tank on the semi.
“We have,” he agreed. “Although if you were trying to get my attention, this probably wasn’t the best way to go about it,” Taco joked.
“Right, because when the semi appeared out of nowhere in front of me, I thought to myself, maybe if I go under this thing and get stuck, Quinn’s handsome firefighter friend will be the one to respond and I can flirt with him during my rescue. Never mind the fact I smell like gas and might’ve decapitated myself. Any chance to snag a hot firefighter. Yup, that’s what I was thinking all right.”
Mick chuckled in front of him, and Taco shook his head with a grin. “All right, Koren, Mick is gonna do his thing. Remember, just relax. Let us move you.”
He nodded at Mick and the other firefighter pushed the button to recline the seat.
As Mick eased her up slightly, turning her slowly, Taco held Koren’s head in his hands, supporting her. He and Mick gently eased her back until she was lying flat, looking up at Taco.
She had glass in her blonde hair and there was a scrape on her cheek, but otherwise she looked remarkably good for almost dying. Her blue eyes locked onto his…
And Taco swore he felt a bolt of lightning go through his body.
“Hi,” she said softly. “We meet again.”
He smiled, holding her head tightly. “Hi.”
Now that she was lying down, there was a little more room between her hips and the steering wheel. Taco looked up at Mick. “I think we can scoot her out without messing with the wheel. The last thing we want to do is have to cut and risk a stray spark.”
Mick nodded. “That’s what I was thinking.”
Koren blinked in surprise and tried to look down at Mick.
Taco held her head so she couldn’t move. “What?”
“He’s Australian,” she said.
“I am,” Mick said. “Hence the nickname. You know, Mick Dundee from that movie Crocodile Dundee.”
“You’re way too young to know that movie,” she said.
“Like you aren’t?” Taco retorted.
“It came out a year after I was born,” Koren said.
“Which means nothing to me, really, as I can’t say I have even the slightest clue when that thing first aired,” Taco responded.
She winked. “I’m thirty-three. And if you wanted to know my age, all you had to do was ask. Like this…how old are you?”
“Older than you.” Taco grinned. Then he turned when he heard someone at his side. Two more firefighters were standing there with a backboard. His attention went back to Koren. “All right, all kidding aside, it’s time to get you out of there.”
“Okay,” she said, not taking her eyes from his.
“I’m going to lift you a bit and my buddies are gonna slip the backboard under you on the seat. Again, just relax, don’t try to lift yourself in any way. Mick and I will get you on the board. Then it’s just a matter of slipping you out the door. Got it?”
She tried to nod, but Taco still had too tight a grip on her head for her to move.
“Don’t move your head, Koren.”
“Sorry. Okay. I’m ready.”
A shout went up from somewhere beyond the truck.
“Easy, Kor,” Taco said when he felt her pulse leap under his fingers. “We got this. Ready, Mick?”
“Okay, guys, bring in the backboard.” It took some maneuvering in the small, cramped space, but within just a minute and a half, Taco was kneeling on the ground next to Koren, fifteen feet away from her crumpled car and the tractor trailer. They were waiting for the mobile gurney to be brought over so they could transfer her onto it and take her to the hospital.
“You okay?” Taco asked.
“Yeah,” she breathed. “Thank you.”
“Here’s her purse,” Mick said from nearby.
Taco turned and took it from the big, burly firefighter. “Thanks.”
Mick winked and rushed off to help someone else.
Taco looked back down at Koren, at a loss for words now that the rush of the rescue was already wearing off. He could tell she was well aware of how close she’d come to dying.
His thoughts were proven right when she took a deep breath and said, “I know this isn’t the place or the time, but…wanna go out sometime? I never ask guys out but, you know, since I almost died, I’m giving myself a pass this once.”
Taco hesitated. He wasn’t ready. And he really wasn’t ready to go out with someone who had a lot of the same features as his psycho ex.
He obviously hesitated too long, because for the first time, she looked away, her words tumbling out fast.
“Never mind. Forget I asked. Just blame it on adrenaline. I’m sure you’re already taken. I mean, why wouldn’t you be? You’re beautiful.” Then her eyes slammed shut. “And now I’m mortified.”
“It’s not you, Koren, I just—”
He was interrupted by two paramedics pushing a gurney. “Hey! Your ride to the hospital is here!” one of them said lightly.
Stoker, Susan. Shelter for Koren (Badge of Honor: Texas Heroes Book 14) (pp. 8-13). Stoker Aces Production, LLC. Kindle Edition.
This isn’t the last time he sees Koren, feeling bad for not answering her, he goes to the hospital to see her and accept the date. He’s more than a little surprised to find she’s already being discharged.
This is the start of something, but when Koren doesn’t hear from him she decides to bring cookies as a thank you to the firehouse and let him off the hook.
A great meeting with all the ladies of the crew, who decide they like her a lot. But when things start heating up they do in a big way and in more ways than one.
We also get to see some more of what Penelope is going through and Smoky and Coco play a role as well.
So much going on, a lot of suspense and scary coincidences will have you turning the pages to the very end.
I can’t wait for Penelope’s book, even though it looks to be the last of this series.
5 Contented Purrs for Susan!
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New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author, Susan Stoker has a heart as big as the state of Texas where she lives, but this all American girl has also spent the last fourteen years living in Missouri, California, Colorado, and Indiana. She’s married to a retired Army man who now gets to follow her around the country.
She debuted her first series in 2014 and quickly followed that up with the SEAL of Protection Series, which solidified her love of writing and creating stories readers can get lost in.