In the opening chapter of my upcoming book, K-9 DEFENSE, Rebel – a five-year-old Malinois-German Shepherd mix – saves the life of my heroine, who’s come to the wilds of Alaska in search of her long-lost sister. Rebel doesn’t need to be told what to do – when she sees a car sliding out of control through the town’s snow-covered streets, she leaps on the heroine, knocking her out of the way.
It’s a role she knows well – that of a hero. Before coming to Desparre, Alaska, with ex-Marine Colter Hayes, she served beside him as a military Combat Tracker Dog. After serving together for two years, she saved his life during a sniper attack. Both man and dog were injured that day, ending their military careers. Since then, Colter has been hiding – and trying to heal from his emotional wounds as much as his physical ones – and Rebel has stayed by his side.
When Harlequin approached me about writing a romantic suspense with a K-9, it didn’t take me long to agree. I’d never written a dog into a main role in a novel before – primarily because in all of my previous mysteries, my hero or heroines were in law enforcement, in situations that would make having pets tough. And needing to have a constant role for a K-9 seemed challenging. But as soon as I started writing K-9 DEFENSE, Rebel made it all easy.
From the first page, it was natural to have her in many of the scenes. There was an obvious role for her to play and I quickly came to love my fictional dog. In real life, I grew up with a menagerie – we had dogs, cats, birds, bunnies, a ferret, an iguana, ducks, chinchillas, and fish. So having pets around is normal for me – to this day, I often write my novels with either a parrot or a lovebird on my shoulder!
And for K-9 DEFENSE, Rebel plays an integral part not just in the plot, but also because she’s so connected to Colter. She’s the reason he made it through multiple surgeries when he was injured during his time in the military. And day to day, she helps him cope with his PTSD. From the moment she meets the heroine, Kensie Morgan, the two of them also bond. So, when Colter or Kensie find themselves in trouble, Rebel is always ready to help.
Here’s a little snippet from the beginning of K-9 DEFENSE, as Rebel saves Kensie: Colter Hayes didn’t know what happened.
One second, his retired Military Working Dog, Rebel, was goofing off, chasing a stick as naturally as she’d once tracked dangerous bombers back to their hideouts. The next, she was racing away from him so fast he knew her injured leg would be acting up later.
He heard the engine a second after that, spotted the old station wagon careening around the corner, cutting through the slippery snow way too fast. And a woman frozen in the middle of the street.
“Move!” he screamed at the woman, cursing the injury in his own leg – sustained at the same time as Rebel’s – as he raced for both of them.
He’d never make it in time.
The world around him seemed to move in slow motion as panic shot up his throat, mingling with the cold and making it hard to breathe. The car slip-sliding out of control. His five-year-old Malinois-German Shepherd mix – the only friend he had left in the world – running straight in front of it.
Colter pushed his leg as hard as he could, trying to follow, trying to be any use at all. But it was no good.
Rebel leapt up high, slamming into the woman’s chest with her front legs, knocking both of them out of sight as the car raced past Colter. It slowed for a second, then sped off.
The panic dropped lower, making his chest hurt and his heart beat too fast. The memory of a year ago, of Rebel jumping on him as a bullet passed so close he felt its trajectory over his head, made it hard to breathe.
He tried to push it out of his mind, willed himself not to fall into that darkness as he raced across the street, sliding in the snow toward the two figures lying prone on the ground. He dropped to his knees, ignoring the pop in his knee and the pain that rushed up his thigh.
Another memory from a year ago, of surgery after surgery as he begged to know the condition of his unit. No one would tell him.
Colter blinked the present back into focus.
About Elizabeth Heiter
Critically acclaimed and award-winning author ELIZABETH HEITER likes her suspense to feature strong heroines, chilling villains, psychological twists, and a little bit (or a lot!) of romance. Her research has taken her into the minds of serial killers, through murder investigations, and onto the FBI Academy’s shooting range. Her novels have been published in more than a dozen countries and translated into eight languages; they’ve also been shortlisted for the Daphne Du Maurier award, the National Readers’ Choice award and the Booksellers’ Best award and won the RT Reviewers’ Choice award.
The heroine of Elizabeth’s Profiler novels was called “one of the most amazing characters created in print” by Fresh Fiction. Her novels have received praise from Lee Child, J.T. Ellison, Jeffery Deaver, Tess Gerritsen, R.L. Stine, Allison Brennan, Laura Griffin, Suzanne Brockmann, Hank Phillippi Ryan and Zoë Sharp.