USA Today Bestselling Author
A trip to overseas would be a great idea, as long as it didn’t include a stop in Scotland. He’d do a lot to visit his brother, but he could cheerfully never see the woman he used to love at the same time. But somehow an American War Dog was shipped overseas and Badger tagged him for the job. Arriving home for the first time in five years is a challenge but nothing has changed. Liam, his middle brother is full of and his younger brother Angus appears to still be a lightweight. There’s nothing he could say about his relationship with his mother. But Ainsley now she’s a different story. She’s still the same beautiful woman he left behind.
Ainsley hopes seeing Kascius again can help heal the rift that still stops her from moving forward in life. She’d been in a bad place back then and had regretted the way they split but finding forgiveness, although it might be possible, doesn’t look likely.
Only his arrival sets off a chain reaction that leaves her under the suspicion of murder as her world imploded in a chaotic nightmare. Between dog fighting, gambling, and murder… the two of them have their hands full keeping Ainsley out of prison, and Kascius alive… then there’s the fate of the war dog, Beamer, on his shoulders as well…
There’s a missing war dog in Scotland, the adopting family had moved there right after getting the dog bring him with them. Unfortunately, once they arrived the dog went missing, that was two weeks ago. Badger has two men working for him, cousins, Kascius and Karl, both from Scotland and Kascius is willing to help find dogs. He just never expected to go home to find it.
He arrives in Scotland to be greeted enthusiastically by his brother Liam, who also informs him that his ex, Ainsley is his mother’s nurse. While that seems out of character from the woman he remembers, Kascius is fine with it. When he left to go to American and joined the military there, he had to end that relationship.
The homecoming is interesting to say the least, his sister-in-law Emily is delighted to see him, his brother Angus, the youngest is irritating, Ainsley his ex, reserved, and his mam, who has severe dementia didn’t remember him at all and she doesn’t have much longer to live. It really seems the family issues are far more than meets the eye.
We get a glimpse of Ainsley’s relationship with her sister at the beginning of this as well. That seems to be a difficult one as well. She also still has feelings for Kascius and isn’t sure how to handle them. This uncertainty is because she made a big mistake by going out just once with his brother Angus after they broke up.
Kascius’ first priority is to find Beamer, the war dog. he returned to the airport and meets with Henry the cargo manager. He wants to speak with the dog’s handler here at the airport, but first he once again contacts the adoptive family. What he learns is very different from the initial story and Henry also informs him of the outstanding fees owed. It’s Terry who answers the biggest question though, apparently, he sold Beamer after he was let out of the cage. Now Kascius has to locate the dogfighting ring and get the dog out. This is going to open a whole new can of worms.
As a mystery unfolds with regards to his mother’s medication, Kascius with the cooperation of the police is about to join them on a raid of the suspected dog fighting property. Not only do they find the war dog but many more as well, effectively shutting down the ring. It’s as they are settling that Kascius learns of his mother’s death and Ainsley’s arrest.
This is a favorite scene.
She didn’t have a clue what was happening, but, considering she was getting out, she didn’t really care at this point in time. In silence, she went through the process of being released. As soon as she got outside, she turned to the lawyer. “Who retained you, and who posted my bail?”
“I did,” Kascius said, from behind her. She turned toward him. He smiled, walked up to her, and pulled her into his arms, holding her close. “You’re a lot of things, but you’re not a killer.”
She felt her tears choking her once again. “Thank you,” she whispered, swallowing her sobs. “Not just for posting bail but for believing in me.”
“Believing in you is easy. You’ve always been on the straight and narrow, and I know that.”
“And the fact that you contacted the doctor about that substance in the glass is also a good thing,” the lawyer noted. “I did hear that part of the conversation, so now we need to go somewhere safe and away from listening ears. I need to know what the hell is going on here. Every single detail. Kascius has brought me up to speed, as he knows it, but honestly, we haven’t had a chance to do more than that.”
“How did you get that done so quickly?” she asked, looking over at Kascius. “How did you even find him so fast, much less get him here?”
“I called my boss.”
She stared at him, finally saying, “Nice boss.”
“We have a network around the world.” He grinned. “Besides, this is my hometown.” He grinned over at the lawyer. “By the way, this is Larry. He and I went to school together.”
She stared at Larry. “Thank you.”
He shrugged. “Hey, when old friends call, you step up to the plate. I did know you in high school, and I certainly would have agreed with what Kascius said about your character, but I can’t take it on faith. We need to talk, and you need to tell me exactly what’s going on.”
Kascius suggested, “Let’s head to a coffee shop or something. We need someplace that’s a little private, where she can have some food and calm down.”
She looked over at him. “How did you know I needed food?”
“You’re shaking, and you’ve always had low-blood-sugar problems.”
She sighed. “And here I thought you walked away and never thought of me again.”
“I never stopped thinking about you,” he said cheerfully. “But you weren’t ready to commit to what I needed you to commit to back then. So, we weren’t ready for each other, but that didn’t keep us from being friends.”
Friends was the last thing that she wanted to be with him right now, but, as a friend, he’d already proven to be a hell of a lot more helpful than she would have expected. By the time they hit a coffee shop, and she was sitting down in a warm space, holding a hot cup of coffee in her hands, she explained the little bit that had happened over the last few days.
“And all of this happened after Kascius arrived?”
“Yes, and, though I didn’t bring it up to him, I assumed that he was astute enough to not ignore the fact that he would make a great scapegoat.”
“And yet, as scapegoats go, it ended up being you instead.”
“Yes”— she shuddered—“ but only because of Angus.”
“Maybe I’ll look like a second-best suspect, or with the suspicions on her, maybe they’ll assume that we’re in it together,” Kascius offered in a wry tone. “I’m not under any illusions here.”
She stared at him. “Wow, that was a leap.”
“Maybe, but whoever is doing this can’t be all that stupid.”
She shook her head. “That’s why it never made any sense that they were trying to make it look as if you had done it. Since you had only arrived, that would be way too obvious.”
“The ability to discern something as ‘way too obvious’ is a feature of brainpower that some of these criminals often don’t have,” Larry interrupted. “So, from the top, go over everything, and don’t leave anything out.”
It took a while, as she tried to remember all the bits and pieces. By the time she was done, Larry had several pages of notes.
He nodded. “The best thing in all of this is that you did give that glass to the doctor and that, somewhere along the line, hopefully, he got it tested.”
“I haven’t heard from him. Honestly, I wasn’t even sure what to do about it. I guess I could have contacted the cops, but I sounded idiotic, prattling on about a mysterious white substance in the bottom of a glass.”
Larry nodded. “And, because you were responsible for her, you did the right thing in the sense that you reported it to the doctor. Now, what the doctor did with that, we don’t know, but we need to find out.”
“You can contact him or I can,” she said, pulling out her phone.
“Nope, leave it,” Larry said. “I’ll contact the cops, and we’ll make sure it’s all done through official channels. Chain of custody is important, and we need to do things by the book.”
She slowly put her phone on the table and nodded. “I don’t even know what to think right now.” She bit her lip, as she looked over at Kascius. “It would really hurt to think Emily and Liam believe this.”
“Right. I haven’t talked to them, but I will as soon as I get home. And then of course there’s Angus.”
“Angus?” Larry asked, still writing down notes. “My youngest brother,” Kascius stated in a hard voice. “The one who pointed the finger at Ainsley.”
At that, Larry raised his head and looked at him. “The lazy one.”
“Yeah, the lazy one,” Kascius confirmed.
She looked over at Larry. “You really do know the family, don’t you?”
“Yeah, I do. We were in sports together, and I was part of Kascius’s life when his dad more or less kicked him out of the family. So, Liam got the farm.” He looked back at him curiously, “I suppose that hasn’t changed.”
“No, it hasn’t changed at all,” he agreed. “My mother retained a portion of the farm, and it’s expected that it would go to Angus.”
“Did she have any rights over the rest of the farm?”
“I’m not sure.” Kascius eyed Larry curiously. “Everything went to my mother but the shares to the farm, I thought.” Then he frowned, looked at Larry. “Maybe you can clarify that. I don’t get anything, but did Angus get more than that? I wasn’t privy to the will, as I wasn’t in it.”
Larry considered that and frowned. “How much money did your mother have?”
“I have no idea. Remember? I got kicked out when I wasn’t worthy of being part of the family.”
At that, Larry nodded. “Sounds as if you went on and had a better life anyway.”
“I did. However, another concern here is that Liam’s wife, Emily— you remember her. She was a couple years behind us. She’s very pregnant, and she’s had multiple miscarriages already. They didn’t think that she would make it this far, so the last thing we want is to have her upset.”
“Too late,” Ainsley whispered. “She was there when I got arrested.”
“Ah, crap.” Kascius rubbed his temples. “That’s something I need to check in on. We may need to get her a nurse.” He looked over at Ainsley. “The sooner we get this cloud cleared over your head, the sooner I can get Emily back to being calm too. She’ll be absolutely hysterical.”
“Have you checked your phone?” Larry asked. Kascius shook his head and pulled out his phone. “Shit, I’d turned it off because of the police raid I was part of. Then when the detective I was working with told me what happened with Mam, I came straight to the jail to check on Ainsley.” He quickly saw he had four messages. He got up and said, “Excuse me. I’ll be right back.” And, with that, he walked off to the side.
As she watched him go, she faced Larry. “I really didn’t do it. Angus immediately accused me of killing his mother. But I didn’t. I wouldn’t.”
“I’m glad to hear that. That’s important.”
“I can’t even begin to imagine.”
“As you suggested, Kascius makes a really good victim for a setup here but not necessarily a reasonable one, as in what’s his motive?”
“See? That’s the thing I don’t understand. He wouldn’t do this, and it doesn’t make any sense at all that he would do this when he’d only just arrived. If he was trying to hide his tracks, he would have made it seem to be somebody else.”
“You mean, like you?” he asked seriously.
She stared, her jaw dropping, and then shook her head. “No, he wouldn’t do that.”
“No, he wouldn’t. I wanted to know how you felt about it.”
“I’m completely confused at the moment, and I don’t understand any of this. If the police had even asked me a few more questions, it wouldn’t have been so bad, but Angus just— well, I think Angus probably threw me under the bus right away.”
“I suspect what he pointed out was the fact that you had the opportunity, since you were the one looking after his mother, and he also said that Bella was quite upset and included something about her accusing you.”
“Oh, great. So how am I supposed to argue with a woman’s deathbed accusation?” She frowned. “I didn’t realize Angus saw her that morning. He wasn’t there when I arrived. Or was he?”
“Nothing’s ever that simple, but we’ll get to the bottom of it eventually.”
She sighed and sat back. “I’m glad to hear that,” she whispered, a single tear rolling down each cheek, “because I didn’t do anything wrong. To Bella … or my brother.”
“Good. Keep that energy, that righteous anger at the forefront. Don’t let it ever go, but you also have to be controlled, so you’re not the person who keeps giving the police more to go on, even if it’s just motivation.” Then he looked at her. “I haven’t had a chance to talk to Kascius about his return. I presume he came back for you?”
She stared at him, her bottom lip trembling. “I wish he had come back for me, but it was a job that he was asked to do. He is trying to locate a retired American War Dog that was shipped over here and got lost. You’ll have to ask him, but now there’s something about it getting sold to a dogfighting ring. I honestly don’t know very much about it.”
Dale Mayer. Kascius-Dale-Mayers-re (Kindle Locations 1953-2039). Kindle Edition.
With Ainsley out on bail, and his sister-in-law in the hospital, Kascius turns his attention to the war dog. There’s a bond between him and an injured dog and he wants to take both of them. Plus he needs to do what he can to prove Ainsley’s innocence.
Holy Moly! This book couldn’t be put down, everything happens so quickly, and the suspense just ramps up higher and higher.
I really can’t wait to see what Dale has in mind for the next book in this series.
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.