USA Today Bestselling Author
Being a badass growing up had been fine for a while, but Kurt knew his life had to change. His best option? The US Navy. Fourteen years later a serendipitous request from Badger to check out reports of a missing War Dog hidden in the bushes and attacking people sends Kurt to the very place he couldn’t wait to get out of.
When Kurt chose the navy over Laurie Ann so long ago, he left her with a gift she’d fought long and hard to keep. Plus she didn’t give up on her dream of becoming a doctor. When Kurt returns, it’s hard not to see the same person she’d loved in this older version. Yet the town has a long memory, and at least one person isn’t willing to see who Kurt is now.
But, as always, he’s a trouble magnet. Was he capable of handling the nightmare they were in, or would he leave, just like he had last time?
The adopted war dog Kurt is assigned to find is a Malinois named Sabine, she was adopted by a family for the brother and he went to prison. She was last seen at a truck stop in Kentucky and was now being looked for by animal control. The tipster said she was trying to attack people.
The truck stop is near Kurt’s hometown, he hasn’t been back since he left for the Navy thirteen years ago. He left behind his girlfriend Laurie Ann, she had such a bright future and he couldn’t offer her anything.
Laurie Ann is now a pediatrician with a growing practice, she works long hours at a couple of clinics. She’d stopped for breakfast at the truck stop when Kurt came in. Laurie Ann is sort of happy to see him but she has a secret one she probably should have told him about before he left, but couldn’t.
After Kurt does an initial search for Sabine, he returns to his truck to find a bunch of local hoodlums at his truck. Not one to take being attacked, he retaliates in kind. This leads to a confrontation with local law enforcement.
Detective Amos Packard remembers Kurt as a troublemaker and he doesn’t trust what Kurt says about the war dog or his service, even when shown Kurt’s prosthetic. He does take Titanium Corp’s card with Badger’s number to check on him.
An incident as he leaves the truck stop has him tracking down Laurie Ann for medical assistance. He has no desire to deal with law enforcement again.
This is a favorite scene as he discovers Laurie Ann’s secret.
Laurie Ann quickly pulled his T-shirt up over his shoulder and whistled. “That’s an ugly burn.”
“But it’s just a burn, right?”
“Well, it went through the top of the upper arm and shoulder. That’s an odd trajectory.”
“I had just lifted my arm to move the sun visor.”
“And so you shifted away from where you were sitting straight?”
“Yeah,” he murmured. “And I figured that’s what saved my life.”
“They were gunning for you?” She stared at him in horror.
“It was the kids,” he said. And he explained, slowly, enunciating carefully, as she listened to the pain in his voice.
“Wow,” she murmured. “You’re still a hard-ass too, aren’t you?”
“Would I let the five of them beat me up? No,” he murmured. “You know that’ll never be anything I can do.”
“No, and you shouldn’t have to,” she said. “I’m surprised you didn’t lay all five of them on the ground.”
“Maybe, if I knew just where they were at, I would have,” he said, describing how the unmarked vehicle took the gang of kids away. He took a long slow deep breath. She held out the alcohol to clean his wound, and he nodded. As soon as the antiseptic solution washed over the open wound, he sucked in his breath and closed his eyes, willing himself not to screech like a two-year-old.
“It’s almost done,” she said. “Any idea where the bullet is?”
“It’s probably in the damn back seat of the truck,” he said. “It didn’t get that far.”
“You’ll have to wash out the truck too. A lot of blood is on your shirt, so I’m sure some is on the truck seat.”
“I know,” he said, “but the inside of the vehicle isn’t exactly what I’m worrying about at the moment.”
“No, let’s get this taken care of.” She looked at it for a long moment and then shook her head. “You need some stitches in this.”
“So put them in,” he said.
“I can’t just turn around and do that. You should go to a clinic,” she said in exasperation.
He looked at the wound in surprise. “Then bring me the supplies, and I’ll stitch it.”
She stared at him in shock, wondering if he was serious, but the look on his face said not only was he serious but that he’d done it before.
“Knothead,” she muttered.
“Yep, still the same knothead you used to know and love.”
“True. That was a long time ago.”
“It was a good thing I left.”
She nodded. “It was, indeed.”
“I straightened up and became somebody,” he said quietly. “I would have ended up dead— probably murdered in some back alley— if I’d stayed.”
“Oh, I don’t doubt it,” she said. “Believe me. I’m not arguing with you.”
He snorted. “Of course not, but I’m not a bad person.”
“You weren’t a bad person back then either,” she said quietly. “I’ll be back in a minute.” She returned with a medical kit.
He studied her with interest. “Your family hated me.”
She just gave him half a smile. “Yeah, they did, but,” she added, “nothing was wrong with you back then. You just needed a way to straighten up and to find some purpose in life.”
“The navy gave that to me,” he murmured. “Best thing I ever did.”
“I’m glad to hear that. I really am,” she murmured.
He looked up at her, smiled, and said, “As much as I wanted to stay with you, I was more afraid of dragging you into the gutter where I was.”
She looked at him, smiled, and said, “I really do understand.”
“And I’m glad,” he said, “because, at the time, I didn’t even understand— not until later— when I realized just how much I’d improved my life and what I was like before.”
“I hear you,” she said. “I didn’t ask you to stay because I also knew that you needed to go.”
“The things that we do when we’re young and stupid, huh?”
“Exactly,” she said with a chuckle, “but it’s not all bad.”
“I know. Not all bad,” he said. He looked at her searchingly. “So did you marry and have kids?”
“Something like that,” she said lightly.
“Never bothered with the marrying.”
“Wow,” he said. “I thought for sure you would have married and had your four kids, a fancy little house in suburbia with a white picket fence.” As he looked around, he nodded. “This is kind of what I always thought of you having.”
“Maybe,” she said, “although I would love a place a little farther out of town.”
“We all would,” he said. “All the time I was recovering from the accident, all I could think about was my life being in the navy. But I can’t do that anymore now, so what would I do?”
“And did you find answers for that? What will you do? Unless tracking down dogs is one of them?”
Such curiosity and honesty were in her question, so he answered in the same way. “I’m doing it as a favor for Titanium Corp. They were the ones who helped me get rehabilitated into work life again,” he said. “When they told me the dog was missing in this area, I jumped at it.”
“Of course. You’ve always loved animals.”
“Well, my father raised them,” he said. “At least before he tossed me into the foster system.”
“I don’t think he tossed you in it as much as he was a drunk, and you got pulled away from him.”
“At thirteen, it made me a very angry young man.”
“That it did,” she said. She finished the stitching and put some antiseptic gel and a bandage on his shoulder. “There you are. All stitched back up again.”
He looked down at it, nodded, and said, “Thanks. Those are handy skills.”
“Sounds to me like you’ve already doctored yourself a few times.”
“I had to,” he said. “Sometimes, on missions, you don’t get a whole lot of choices.”
She nodded. “And I’m glad to hear that because it shows a complete change from who you were to who you are now.”
“You have no idea,” he said with a big grin. “As much as I don’t like who I was, I certainly understand that that person is who I needed to be in order to understand where I am now.”
“Good,” she said with a gentle smile. “And stop being so hard on the person you were. I really loved that man.” He gave her a warm smile that made her heart pound.
“I’m glad to hear that,” he said, “because he really needed to be loved. Because he didn’t love himself.”
“Absolutely,” she said. “Well, this seems oddly familiar.”
She motioned at him, sitting here at the kitchen table. “Remember?”
One of the times when Kurt had been badly beaten up, he came running to her, and she’d fixed his nose and some of the bruises and cuts on his arms. “You were always telling me back then how you would be a doctor,” he murmured.
“Well, I did get caught that night by my parents,” she said. “I was grounded for weeks afterward.”
“Right. I came to your bedroom.” He shook his head. “If I should ever have a daughter, I’ll be horrified at the thought of all those men out there, ready to prey on her.”
“Yet you weren’t preying on me,” she said. “You were coming home.”
He looked at her in surprise and then nodded slowly. “I was,” he said, “and that makes it all the sadder.”
“Yes, and no,” she said. “It also is very enlightening.”
“Maybe. Did you have a good thirteen years?” he asked, his gaze still searching, still curious as he pulled his t-shirt on.
She turned away and busied herself, cleaning up. She didn’t know what to say.
“Or not, I gather?”
“Well, I had some absolutely incredible moments,” she said, thinking about the birth of her son. “And then some really tough moments. School was difficult. I did get through med school though. As you’re well aware, I’m a pediatrician, and I had a child, so I have those two things I really wanted out of my life.”
“Absolutely. So where’s your child? Is it a boy or a girl?”
She turned, smiled, took a deep breath, and said, “A boy. His name is Jeremy.”
“That’s a good solid name,” he said. “How old is he?”
Just then Jeremy and Frank dashed through the front door. “Hey, Mom. Who’s here?”
As her hand came up, the two lanky teens came to a stop in the kitchen. Kurt looked on, as she didn’t even know what to say to him. And then proper manners took over. “Jeremy, this is a friend of mine, Kurt. This is Jeremy, my son, and his friend, Frank.”
Dale Mayer. Kurt (Kindle Locations 395-469). Valley Publishing Ltd..
Kurt has no doubt that Jeremy is his son, and now he has a lot more to discuss with Laurie Ann.
The problem with the kids at the truck stop is something more ongoing and there isn’t any support for Kurt from Amos. Kurt figures out it was the kids Sabine attacked and he works even harder to bring her to him.
I love the way this story unfolds, the suspense, the dog and a love rekindled.
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.