USA Today Bestselling Author
The world of dogfighting is an ugly place …
When Tophat, a missing K9 dog, is accidentally sent to Canada as part of a group of rescued dogs looking for adoption, Lucas knows he’s the natural pick for this job. Plus he has another reason to be in the country. His sister lives there, and … so does his ex-fiancée.
But when he arrives, Lucas finds Tophat was handed over to a trainer who deals with aggressive dogs. The news isn’t good, especially after Lucas arrives at the trainer’s property and is thrown into the dark underworld of dogfighting.
Tanya used to share her home with her two best friends, until one was killed in a hit-and-run and the other badly injured. Now living alone in a small apartment, Tanya realizes how much she’s lost—including Lucas. Unexpectedly seeing him flips her world once more …
As Lucas digs deeper into Tophat’s disappearance, the dogfighting ring rises up to protect their own …
If you’ve read the SEALs of Steel series you’ll recognize the guys doing the match ups for the K9s. Geir, Badger and Jager discuss who they’re going to ask to find TopHat in the prologue, and actually compare themselves to Levi and Mason from the Heroes from Hire and SEALs of Honor Series respectively and their matchmaking skills. That had me giggling.
Lucas Scott is the one they bring in and he agrees right away. He decides that at the very least he’d have a good visit with his sister and maybe even get some sort of closure on his relationship with his ex Tanya.
Now Tanya has gone through a lot recently, she lost her job over something that she didn’t do and was exonerated. One of her best friends was kidnapped and murdered and Alice the other part of the ‘Three Muscateers’ was in an accident resulting in her being in a coma. She’s been thinking about Jake and how they broke up and when she hears from his sister Meg he’s coming home for a visit and to find a dog, she wants to see him.
She wasn’t sure he’d even talk to her, but when he does, she volunteers to go with him to the shelter that has Top Hat. A rather long round trip, with some interesting conversation.
This is a favorite scene.
She hopped in. “Thank you for letting me come.” She feasted her eyes on him, loving the way that one wayward front lock of hair resisted going with the flow and always hung slightly off center. With a little curl to the rich brown color, it had always looked perfect.
He gave a clipped nod.
She looked for an opening to break the ice. Taking a deep breath, she said in a bright voice, “So … why is this dog important?”
He gave a brief explanation. When he was done, he glanced at her before asking, “After all this time why did you want to come with me?”
“I wanted to see you,” she said bluntly. “You’ve been out twice before and avoided me.”
“I came up to visit family before,” he said equally as blunt. “And I wasn’t ready to see you.”
She sighed heavily. “Why didn’t you take my calls?”
“What calls?” he asked, frowning, glancing at her again.
He really didn’t remember? She shook her head. “I called— twice— while you were in the hospital. As soon as I heard from Meg what had happened to you, I just needed to hear to your voice.” She glanced at him, gauging his reaction. His face was one big grimace. That couldn’t be good. “Why didn’t you take my calls?”
Lucas gave his own heavy sigh. Then seemed to be counting to ten. Finally he spoke. “You know how I get when I’m sick. That hasn’t changed.” He stared at her to say the next few words. “I haven’t changed.” He shook his head, watching the road again. “I just want to sleep, give my body a couple days to focus solely on healing. Like a bear hibernating, I just need to be left alone. And I’m a grumpy bear if anybody interrupts my hibernation.”
She wondered if this was such a good idea after all to be trapped in an all-day road trip with Lucas.
“But, Lucas,” she said, getting his attention, at least briefly, “this wasn’t two days to get over the flu. You were attacked. It took months of surgeries and rehab.”
He frowned at her, seemed surprised that she knew.
“Meg and I have always been close. She keeps me up-to-date on what’s going on in your life.”
Lucas immediately turned away and stared out the side window, then faced the roadway, but … not her.
“Does that bother you?”
His shoulders visibly relaxed. Then he shook his head, but it was such a minute movement that she almost missed it. “I’m glad you and Meg are close.”
He wasn’t normally so blunt, nor so uncaring of her feelings. But she needed the honesty. She knew he’d taken the breakup hard.
“Sorry,” he said. “I don’t mean to be mean.”
“You never mean to be,” she said. “Sometimes we have to be mean to those we love to get them to understand.” He didn’t say anything. She smiled. “Anyway, thank you for letting me come. Otherwise, I’d be sitting at home doing nothing and hating my life.”
“Why?” he asked. “What’s been going on?”
“You sure you want to hear?” she asked with a broken laugh. “Remember Alice and Claire?”
He nodded. “Of course. The three of you were The Three Musketeers.”
“Well, Claire is dead. Alice is in the hospital in a coma.” She wrapped her arms around herself, as if trying hard to hide her grief. “Claire was murdered.”
“Jesus,” he said softly. “Seriously?”
She nodded. “The RCMP have some leads but haven’t found out who killed her yet.”
“Any idea how she was killed?”
“She was kidnapped on her way home from work one day. She decided she should walk home. Then that was her. She loved to jog and walk— she was very much the outdoor girl. She never made it home. Her body was found two days later.”
“How did she die?”
Tanya sighed. “It’s horrible.”
“Stabbed? Shot? Strangled?”
“Looked like a dog attack,” she said, her voice breaking up despite her best efforts to control it. “Her throat was ripped out, and she had bite marks all over her body.”
The cab of the truck was eerily quiet. She shouldn’t have been so graphic, but it was an image she couldn’t get out of her mind.
“Dogs?” he asked quietly. “Are we talking about dogfights?”
“The police are looking at that angle because we have had some problems recently with underground dogfighting rings. The police rescued dozens of dogs. At least two of them had to be put down because they couldn’t be saved.”
“Did Claire have anything to do with any of the people involved in those cases?”
“Who knows?” she said. “She was one of the dispatchers for the RCMP, so it’s possible.”
“That’s rough,” he said. “I’m sorry.”
“I am too. It’s been a rough few months.”
“How long ago did this happen?” “One hundred and twenty-six days ago.” The number fell off her tongue because she’d been counting every day.
“What happened to Alice?” he asked, looking at her.
She glanced at him and then out the front windshield. He had the softest gray eyes. They still had the same impact on her.
She sighed. “She was hit by a car crossing the road, and the driver fled the scene.”
“And let me guess. The police never caught who did it?” he asked drily.
“No. But then I’m not sure I can blame them. It was nighttime. She left a bar, at night, dressed in black … At least she’s alive, and she will recover, but she’ll be in the hospital for a while.”
“Do you get to see her?”
“I go a lot. Unfortunately that has also become a bit of a crutch as I’m either sitting at Claire’s graveside or sitting at Alice’s bedside. A lot of people think it’s not very healthy. I can’t walk away though. I’m just so angry, and I feel shitty that I’m the only one left.”
“Being a survivor can be a terrible guilt trip.”
She stared at him, her lips parting in surprise. But what he said made an odd kind of sense. “Oh. … Survivor’s guilt? Yes. … You’re right. I hadn’t thought of it that way. But that’s what it is. I feel guilty because I’m okay, and they aren’t.”
Dale Mayer. Lucas (Kindle Locations 292-343). Valley Publishing Ltd..
Of course it couldn’t be as simple as getting to the shelter and picking up the dog, apparently they moved him to a trainer who could handle him better without notifying Lucas. Where he had escaped from his cage.What happens next puts Tanya and Lucas in the middle of the horrible sport of dog fighting and trying to stop the rings.
Hold your breath scenes as things come together and they find Top Hat. A rekindling of romance, a loving protective dog, family and mysteries solved.
I love this series, the avenues to find these ‘misplaced’ Military Dogs have been exciting, dangerous, romantic and suspenseful. I can’t wait to read the next book!
5 Contented Purrs for Dale!
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Dale Mayer is a USA Today bestselling author best known for her Psychic Visions and Family Blood Ties series. Her contemporary romances are raw and full of passion and emotion (Second Chances, SKIN), her thrillers will keep you guessing (By Death series), and her romantic comedies will keep you giggling (It’s a Dog’s Life and Charmin Marvin Romantic Comedy series).
She honors the stories that come to her – and some of them are crazy and break all the rules and cross multiple genres!
To go with her fiction, she also writes nonfiction in many different fields with books available on resume writing, companion gardening and the US mortgage system. She has recently published her Career Essentials Series. All her books are available in print and ebook format.