Going back home changes everything…
He’s cocky, funny, and a little bit grouchy…
Freelance contractor for security and intelligence, Decker Ashford’s a rugged and tough ranch manager with a brain to match. But when a woman dies in his arms on a dark road, Deck’s hellbent on uncovering the mystery behind her death.
She hung up her cowboy boots for city-slick stilettos…
Determined to leave the ranch behind, Mila Knight sets off for life in Boston without a second glance at the hay-baling world she grew up in. But when her sister’s death brings her back to town, she’s determined to unearth her family’s hidden secrets.
Relying on each other may be harder than they realized…
As Mila and Deck search for answers, their chemistry ignites. However, the last thing Mila wants—or needs—is to get pulled back into small-town life. But when her sister’s killer sets eyes on Mila, Deck will do anything to save her. Can Mila trust her heart and stay when she’s determined to walk away?
Decker Ashford is the manager of King-Alexander Ranch. If you’ve been reading the other series by Heather Slade you’ll recall this is Z and Quint’s ranch.Decker is returning from England, mulling over a possible partnership in a new security company venture when he discovers a woman in a ditch at the side of the road. When the woman dies in his arms he takes on investigating her death.
Mila is happy with her life in Boston, she has her teaching and her apartment while small was homey, then she finds her contract wasn’t being renewed for the fall semester. Adler, her landlord and friend takes her out so she’s not alone and just when she’s starting to feel better a phone call changes everything.
Adler makes the arrangements for her to travel to Texas to identify her sister’s body, not realizing things were about to change in his friendship with Mila.
It’s Decker who meets Mila at the airport, and he pretty much ignores Adler. But what really catches Adler’s attention is that Mila doesn’t flinch away from Decker’s touch.
This is a favorite scene.
I went outside but I didn’t see Adler. A few seconds later, he walked out from the other side of the building.
“Where were you?” I asked.
“Making a call.”
Why was he being so short with me? It was so unlike him.
“If you need to get back…”
“What about you? Is there any reason you need to stay here?”
I stared at him. Was he serious? I folded my arms.
“What?” He reached out to touch my arm, but pulled back.
“You didn’t even ask me about Sybil.”
“Right. Um. Sorry. Distracted. It was an important call. Are you doing okay?”
“Am I doing okay? Adler! I just walked into a morgue and saw my dead sister lying on a metal table under a sheet. No! I’m not doing okay!” I dissolved into tears, and when he tried to comfort me, I pulled away.
“I’m sorry, Mil. I don’t know what else to say.”
I looked at him and shook my head, but before I could say anything more, Decker came out of the building.
“There’s been a change of plans.” He walked over and put his hand on her shoulder. “Mila, I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but the house in Bluebell Creek is a crime scene. There won’t be any access to it until the sheriff gives his okay.”
Adler made no secret of the fact he noticed that I didn’t flinch or pull away when Decker touched me. I couldn’t explain my reaction— or lack of reaction— myself. Decker Ashford, a man I barely knew, made me feel safe. Was it just his kindness? Was it that he took charge in a way that didn’t threaten me but, instead, made me feel protected? Or was it because all those years ago, he’d done the same thing?
“The sheriff asked me to bring this to you.” Decker held up a bag.
“What is it?” “Your sister’s effects.”
I looked into his eyes. “I don’t know what to do,” I whispered.
“Take your sister’s stuff, and we’ll go back to Boston. When the sheriff says it’s okay, we can come back.”
I looked over at Adler and then back at Decker. “How long do you think it will be?”
“It’s difficult to say.”
When I turned back to Ad, he was studying something on his phone. “There’s a flight in two hours,” he mumbled. “If you hurry, we can catch it.”
Decker took a step closer. “If you need a place to stay, there’s a guest house at the ranch.”
“King-Alexander. It isn’t too far from here.”
Adler was still preoccupied by his phone. Here was a man I hadn’t seen since I was a child, and barely knew then, being kinder to me than the man who had been one of my closest friends for the last four years.
“If you’re sure,” I said to Decker.
“Give me a minute?”
He nodded and stepped away.
“I’m staying here. At least until they can determine my sister’s cause of death.”
Adler finally looked up from his phone. “I don’t see the point, Mil. Whether you’re here or at home, isn’t going to change anything. Let’s get back to Boston, and when there’s something more you’re needed for here, you can come back.”
“Something more I’m needed for? Adler—” God, I couldn’t even talk to him. Needed for? Her sister was dead. I had a funeral to plan, a burial, and then I had to figure out what to do with my grandfather’s house. Wasn’t any of this dawning on him? “I’m going to stay, but you should go home.”
His eyes opened wide as though something I’d said surprised him. Again. I was stunned by his insensitivity. Had he always been this way and I just never noticed? Or had I noticed and just overlooked it because it had always been easier just to accept that Adler was always around, always doing things for ne?
“I’m not leaving without you.”
“I’m sure you’d be welcome to stay at the ranch.”
Adler grabbed my arm. “No, Mila, I’m not staying at the ranch or anywhere else. I’m getting on the next plane to Boston, and so are you.”
“Let her go.” Decker stalked over to them and got in Adler’s face until he dropped my arm. I hadn’t noticed before how much taller than Adler he was. He had to be at least six feet five, maybe more.
“This is our ride,” Adler said when a car pulled up. He’d called a car service? Was that what he’d been doing? “Are you coming with me or not?”
“I’ve told you more than once that I’m staying here.”
Adler looked at me and then at Decker, who stood next to me with his arms folded.
“Last chance,” said the man I’d believed to be my friend. When I shook her head, he climbed into the back seat of the waiting vehicle and slammed the door.
I stood where I was until I saw the car round the corner.
“Ready?” Decker asked.
“I’m sorry about what you just witnessed. He isn’t usually like that.”
Whatever Decker said in response, I couldn’t hear, and I didn’t care. It was hotter than hell, I was exhausted, an emotional wreck, and my sister was dead. Adler Livingston, for all I cared, could go fuck himself.
Heather Slade. Decked (Kindle Locations 348-392). The Invincibles Book One.
I was really happy with Mila’s attitude towards Adler after seeing her sister’s body. He was insensitive and rude, which proved to me I was right to dislike him from the start.
On the other hand, Decker was kind and sympathetic and offered her a place to stay. The fact she lets him touch her is major, that she feels safe with him, even better.
There’s many questions about Mila’s family especially her father. But also about Adler and his parents. I’m not sure I like Deck’s partners in Invincible Security but we’ll see. Actually the only one who gets to me is Rile…yeah it’s gotta be why he got that name. They are necessary in figuring out what happened to Sybil.
Lots of twists and turns as the pieces start coming together, as well as a few scary moments. I also loved the way Deck and Mila’s relationship grows from simmer to sizzle.
I can’t wait to see who Heather pairs up in the next book in this series.
5 Contented Purrs for Heather!
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My books are filled with things that bring me joy: music, wine, skiing, families, artists, and cowboys. Not always in that order.
I’m an Amazon best-selling author, and a PAN member of Romance Writers of America. I speak, teach, blog, am an executive sommelier, and all-around entrepreneur.
I grew up an east coast girl, and then spent half my life on the west coast. Now my husband, our two boys, and I happily call Colorado home.