USA Today Bestselling Author
Welcome to a new stand-alone but interconnected series from USA Today bestselling Dale Mayer. This is Bullard’s story—and that of his team’s. All raw, rough, incredibly capable men who have one goal: to find out who was behind the attack on their leader, before the attacker, or attackers, return to finish the job.
His rescue from the ocean after a horrible plane explosion was his top priority, in any way, shape, or form. A small sailboat and a nurse to do the job was more than Ryland hoped for.
When Tabi somehow drags him and his buddy Garret onboard and surprisingly gets them to a naval ship close by, Ryland figures he’d used up all his luck and his friend’s too. Sure enough, those who attacked the plane they were in weren’t content to let him slowly die in the ocean. No. Surviving had made him a target all over again.
Tabi isn’t expecting her sailing holiday to include the rescue of two badly injured men and then to end with the loss of her beloved sailboat. Her instincts save them, but now she finds it tough to let them go—even as more of Bullard’s team members come to them—until it becomes apparent that not only are Bullard and his men still targets … but she is too.
I love Bullard’s interactions with Ice and Levi, he truly cares for Ice, but knows Levi has her heart and respects that. This book opens with Bullard, Ryland and Garrett leaving Ice and Levi’s compound. They are heading to Australia to pick up the rest of their team and check yet another compound Bullard’s thinking of buying. All is going well including a refueling stop in Hawaii and a chance to stretch their legs before the final leg of the journey. Then just to be sure we’re paying attention, the plane goes BOOM!
Yep you heard me, BOOM! I think I started screaming nooooo at this point and trying to gain control to continue reading.
The next thing we know Ryland is holding on to Garett on floating debris. Fortunately for both of them a sailboat saw the explosion and crash.
Tabi sends out an SOS and heads towards the debris closest to her position. She was able to contact a US Navy ship in the area and they have her sailing toward them as they make their way to her. When they get there they take Garrett first since he is in worse shape than Ryland. The weather is getting worse and by the time they return her own boat is in danger. They all end up on the Navy Ship, but not for long thanks to their connections. They get Garrett settled in the hospital and escort Tabi home.
Only to find her place has been trashed.
This is a favorite scene.
Swearing softly, Ryland used his elbow to push the door forward. He stepped inside and turned to look back at her. “I presume you don’t leave your place unlocked like this.”
Her face blanched, and she shook her head, her hair flying wildly around her features. “Of course not,” she said. “I haven’t been here in what? Nine days? I think I flew out nine days ago.” She stepped carefully inside behind him, with Cain coming in after her. She stared at her living room, which had been completely trashed. “Why would somebody do this?” she asked, her arms outstretched.
“It appears they came here, looking for you,” Cain said.
“Well, I’m obviously not here,” she snapped. “Why rip open the cushions?”
“Normally I’d say they were looking for something, but I’m not sure just what anybody would be looking for in this case.”
“And why?” she said. “It’s not like I’ve been here to stash some theoretical thing here connected to the airplane crash. Even if I was on the naval ship with the guys, or even on my sailboat for a time with Ryland and Garret, it’s not like they gave me anything.” She turned to face Ryland. “Surely you guys weren’t looking for or carrying contraband of some sort, were you?” Then she immediately answered her own question. “And it doesn’t even matter if you were, since you were blasted into the water, without warning.”
“Exactly,” he said. “No, we weren’t carrying anything on board, and we didn’t have anything when we got out of the water, as you well know.”
She nodded. “Your clothes were torn up and halfway off you as it was,” she said, as she walked a few steps forward and turned to look around. “I just don’t get it,” she said, as she surveyed the enormity of the mess the intruders had made. She walked into the kitchen and said, “Jesus! And this makes absolutely no sense either.” All the pickles, relish, various mustards, and other condiments from the fridge had been taken out, upended, and dumped everywhere. “This isn’t a normal robbery,” she said. “This isn’t somebody walking in and getting pissed off that I didn’t have something in particular they were looking for. This is just deliberately making a mess.” She looked at them. “But why?”
At that, Ryland frowned. “The only thing I can think of is, one, to make you leave. Two, to cause you all kinds of chaos and make you worried maybe. And three …” He looked back at Cain and said, “I don’t really have a three. Do you?”
“This is a deliberate act,” Cain said. “But, other than to chase you away, I don’t know why.”
“And, if I were to be chased away,” she said, looking at the two men, “where would I go anyway?”
Immediately both men spun around. “That is the question. Where would you go?”
She looked at them, puzzled, and said, “I don’t understand.”
“If this chased you away, where would you go?”
She frowned and thought about it. “I don’t know,” she said. “I have friends I could bunk with overnight, I guess. My friend’s boat may be here— the one I can use when I’ve got some free time. If I could contact her and make sure the boat is in her slip, and she doesn’t have other plans for it, I could go to the marina and sleep on it overnight. I’d probably just end up in a hotel, frustrated and angry, trying to get insurance to fix this up,” she said.
“Would you call the cops?”
“Sure, I would,” she said. “This is obviously breaking and entering, but it’s more vandalism than anything else.”
“Yes,” she said. “But there’s got to be a message behind it.” She walked to the master bedroom, and her heart sank. All her bedding, all the clothes from the closet and drawers were all dumped and tossed around. She walked into the bathroom and saw something on the mirror and stared. “Well, I found the message,” she called out. Both men followed her into the bathroom, and she pointed to the lipstick message on the glass.
Bitch, we’re on to you! She
looked at the men. “But on to me about what?”
Cain spoke first. “Is there any other reason, something completely unrelated to Ryland here, that would cause you to believe somebody was doing this on a personal level?”
“You mean, like some ex-boyfriend or a really upset girlfriend, coworker?” she asked.
“Anything,” Ryland said. “Personal relationships, work, family, neighbors.”
“No,” she said, crossing her arms over her chest. “And I really hate to think that you guys will start digging into my background.”
“Are you hiding anything?” Ryland asked bluntly. “This is really not the time or place to be trying to hide something from us.”
“I’m not hiding anything. My life has been fairly simple up until now. I don’t have anything to hide. My last relationship was about five months ago, and we broke it off peaceably.”
“Is there such a thing?” Cain asked her curiously.
“Well, let’s just say I suspected that he was screwing around on me, and I didn’t wait to find out for sure. I didn’t care to be with him anymore, so I just told him that we were done,” she said. “He agreed and said it wasn’t working out for him either, and we split. Easy,” she said.
“Why did you end up taking this holiday alone?” Cain asked.
She looked up at them in surprise. “Let me guess. Do you think that a woman can’t do anything without a man nearby?”
Ryland immediately held up his hand. “No, we’re not going there at all. What we’re getting at is why you chose this time and place for your holiday.”
“Because it commemorates the death of my brother, who my boat was named after,” she snapped in frustration and tears. “He died of leukemia six years ago. So, every year, I take time off from work, and I go sailing. All of the medical staff at the hospital know. It’s my way to get back in touch with what really matters in life.”
At that, a moment of silence came from the other two. “So pretty much anybody at the hospital would have known you were out there on the boat?” Cain asked.
“Yes.” She raised her hands in frustration. “Surely you don’t think your plane was blown up in that exact spot, at that exact time, all so I would find you?” she sneered. “Even the gods couldn’t have made that happen.”
“No,” he said, “but obviously they would have known your place was empty.”
She thought about it and nodded. “Yes, as well as several of my neighbors here and anybody I worked with. Not to mention others, like the newspaper boy, and probably a half-dozen more I’ve mentioned it to. I’ve lived here a long time, so I know people. I’m social with them to a certain extent, and I would expect a certain amount of social small talk at various times. So, yes, people would know, but we can hardly go blame everybody who would know.”
“No, but it just means that there was an opportunity and a motive, and somebody took it.”
“So, we’re back to thinking that this is related to Ryland and that they got here before I got back?”
“As soon as you were picked up by the naval ship, the bad guys knew that you would be home within a day or two, so they probably came in yesterday,” Cain said. “Listen. If you have insurance, they’ll cover this, but obviously you can’t stay here.”
“Well, I could,” she said, as she looked around. “It would take a long time to clean up this mess, but the bedroom is still serviceable. I could toss everything, go buy a quick change of sheets, and sit in my room, while I await the insurance adjuster, and then get this place cleaned up. But it wouldn’t be pleasant, right?” She looked back to see them staring at each other, their gazes hard. “What are you thinking?”
“You’re coming with us,” Ryland said.
“Like hell I am,” she said. “No way you’ll convince me that, if I’m not with you, I’ll be in more trouble, and, if I’m with you, I’ll be better off.” “But you will be,” he said. “It’ll be obvious to anybody who’s watching you that you’re not alone and that you’re not helpless in this world.”
“Gosh, I can’t remember the last time I was helpless,” she said coolly, leaning against the now-closed refrigerator door. She looked around at her apartment and said, “You know what? I won’t cry out of frustration for something like this, but it does make me angry as hell.” She looked at them. “So, if you have all these superspy bullshit skills, can you check into the cameras for the apartment, and see who did this?”
Cain gave her a smile, while Ryland looked at her with a chuckle. “It’s already happening,” he said. “We should have an answer pretty quick.”
Just then Cain’s phone buzzed. He pulled it out, read the text, and said, “Single male, five-ten, with lighter skin and freckles, but his face was kept away from the cameras. He wore a hat down low and a sports jacket over jeans and sneakers.”
She snorted at that. “You got a photo already?”
He tapped away on the phone for a moment, and, when it buzzed again, he held it up. “Do you recognize this person?”
She looked at an image of what could have been nearly anybody. She sighed and said, “No. So how did he get in?”
“A key apparently. But busted up the door for good measure.”
“Great,” she said. “So one guy did all of this? He must have been here for what— an hour, two hours?”
“Two hours and twenty-two minutes,” Cain said, reading the text. “He left the same way. He was picked up on the outside of the parking lot on foot.”
“And I guess, if he’d parked nearby, we would have gotten a vehicle model and license plate.”
“Yeah, and we’d have tracked him into the city as well,” Ryland said.
“So what does this make him?”
The two men looked at each other, looked back at her, and Cain said, “A pro.”
Dale Mayer. Ryland’s Reach (Kindle Locations 1132-1211). Valley Publishing.
Things heat up on almost every page even as Ryland and Tabi fall for each other.
As you’ve probably gathered by now, there is no sign of Bullard and they are still searching for him. Ice and Levi are involved on an information level but all of Bullard’s men are involved now as well.
Serious action, suspense and a romance that just escalates with it.
I really can’t wait for the next book in this series. There’s seriously a lot more questions to be answered here.
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.