A knock on the door interrupted Molly’s perusal of the Colorado criminal statutes. Completely caught up in the sentencing guidelines that may be her mom’s future, she jumped at the sound. Warrant, on the other hand, didn’t even lift his head off the floor where he was sprawled out over an air-conditioning vent. Instead, his tail thumped lazily a few times before he fell back asleep. The dog’s reaction made Molly fairly certain of who was at the door.
As she stood up, she swallowed a groan at the feel of her spine popping back into place. Glancing at the clock, she saw that she’d been hunched over her laptop for most of the afternoon. It was no wonder her body was protesting.
After peeking through the peephole in the front door, she unlocked it and swung it open. “This is becoming a habit.”
“What is?” John slipped past her, striding into the house as if he owned the place.
Making a face and pretending that she wasn’t glad to see him, she closed and relocked the door. “You showing up on our doorstep uninvited.”
“If you want me to leave, I can take this very valuable information and go.” His voice was muffled. As Molly entered the kitchen, she saw that he’d crouched down next to Warrant and was rubbing the delighted dog’s belly.
“No, it’s fine. I needed a break anyway.” Even though they were most likely going to be talking about Jane, John was still a good distraction from the mess her mom had made. “I take it you talked to your contact?”
“I did.” After a final pat, John straightened to his significant height. Having him here in her kitchen, taking up most of the space and a good portion of the oxygen—especially without her sisters there as a buffer—made Molly feel overheated. She couldn’t decide whether it was in a good way or a bad way. Shaking off her errant thoughts, she refocused on the important thing.
“What’d they say?” Her knees wobbled slightly from a mixture of exhaustion and anxiety, but she refused to sit down in the chair she’d abandoned when she’d answered the door. The only other seat in the room was too close to hers, and it was hard enough having this conversation without the prospect of John being pressed against her from knee to shoulder. She braced her palms on the table behind her and steeled herself for bad news.
“Barney’s technically right, but Zorah—my lawyer contact—said she doubted a judge would rule that Jane had violated her bail conditions if she hadn’t missed a court date yet.”
The tight knot of Molly’s stomach eased ever so slightly, and she had to lean back more heavily against the table. John must’ve caught the slight movement, since he took a step closer, his hands reaching toward her as if he was prepared to catch her before she fell. Luckily for her presence of mind, he stopped before he was close enough to touch.
“Maybe you should sit down.”
Ignoring the suggestion, she stiffened her spine so she could remove her hands from the table behind her and stand unsupported. Now was not the time for her to get literally weak in the knees. She could collapse later—much later—once they’d figured out the situation and their house was safe from Barney’s clutches. “I’m fine. So, we’re good until her arraignment, then?”
“Preliminary hearing.” The correction sounded oddly gentle, but she still winced at the reminder.
“Right. She gets a preliminary hearing, since she committed a felony.” She paused as she fought off an overwhelming surge of anger and anxiety. “Several felonies. So…we have thirty days, then?”
“Thirty to forty-five, yeah.” He was watching her closely from his spot just a few steps away. She didn’t like him treating her as if she might break. It made her want to collapse into his arms and bawl, which wouldn’t solve anything. She was the oldest of her sisters, and they were counting on her to lead them through this, just like she’d done during the many, many other messes Jane had thrown them into.
“Okay.” Taking a deep breath, she held it until her brain spun a little, and then released it in a long, silent exhalation. “This is good news. It gives us time.”
A heavy knock on the front door made her jerk back. For an irrational moment, she felt a gut-deep fear that Barney was there to toss them out of their home, but then logic reasserted itself. She’d just learned that they had at least a month to figure a way out of this. Whoever was at the door wasn’t there to evict them…yet.
She belatedly started moving through the living room, but John was there first, putting his significant bulk between her and the door. As she stared at his broad back, she blinked, more baffled than annoyed by his protective action.
“What are you doing?” she asked quietly as the knocking stopped.
“Let me see who it is first.” His voice was just a low rumble, and she wanted to laugh at their whispers. As far as she knew, there was no reason to hide from their latest visitor, but they were both muttering quietly at each other.
“No. It’s my house, dum-dum.” Slipping around him, she hurried to the door, knowing that it had taken her long enough that whoever it was might have already left.
“‘Dum-dum’?” he repeated, although he kept his words quiet. “Are you five?”
“Most people say I’m a solid ten, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I suppose.” When she went up onto her tiptoes to peer through the peephole, there was a scratchy, clicking sound. She froze, her gaze dropping to the doorknob, watching in shocked disbelief as the deadbolt thumped open. It felt surreal. Someone had picked the lock—was breaking in—right in front of them.
(C) Katie Ruggle, Sourcebooks Casablanca, 2019
Five bounty-hunting sisters
Deep in the heart of the Rockies
Fighting to save each other
…and the men who steal their hearts
Bounty hunter Molly Pax fought hard for everything she has,
turning the bail recovery business she shares with her
sisters into an unqualified success. So when their
sticky-fingered mother jumps bail and puts the childhood
home up as collateral, Molly’s horrified. To make matters
worse, every two-bit criminal in the Rockies now sees her
family’s misfortune as their next big break.
She needs help, stat.
Enter rival bounty hunter John Carmondy: six feet of pure
trouble, with a cocky grin to match. John’s the most
cheerfully, annoyingly gorgeous frenemy Molly’s ever had the
pleasure of defeating…and he may be her only hope of
making it out of this mess alive.
Romance Suspense [Sourcebooks Casablanca, On Sale: March 26, 2019, Mass Market Paperback / e-Book, ISBN: 9781492662495 / eISBN: 9781492662501]
About Katie Ruggle
A fan of the old adage “write what you know”, Katie Ruggle lived in an off-grid, solar- and wind-powered house in the Rocky Mountains until her family lured her back to Minnesota. When she’s not writing, Katie rides horses, shoots guns (not while riding, although that would be awesome), cross-country skis (badly) and travels to warm places where she can scuba dive. A graduate of the Police Academy, Katie received her ice-rescue certification and can attest that the reservoirs in the Colorado mountains really are that cold. A fan of anything that makes her feel like a bad-ass, she has trained in Krav Maga, boxing and gymnastics.