Meet the Author:
Tracey writes contemporary and historical romantic suspense, historical mysteries, and mainstream thrillers. An Illinois native, Tracey spends her evenings harassing her once-in-a-lifetime husband and her weekends torturing her characters.
For more information on Tracey, including her Internet haunts, contest updates, and details on her upcoming novels, please visit her website at http://www.TraceyDevlyn.com. Want information about Tracey’s new releases to be delivered to your email inbox? Consider signing up for her newsletter http://traceydevlyn.com/contact. Tracey can also be found at http://Instagram.com/TraceyDevlyn, http://Twitter.com/TraceyDevlyn or http://www.Facebook.com/AuthorTraceyDevlyn.
About the Book:
The last thing traveling nurse Evie Steele expects to find aboard the RV housing her mobile health clinic is her brother’s best friend. As always, Deke’s close proximity stirs her forbidden desires and long-suppressed dreams. But his sudden reappearance in her life and curious interest in her patients makes Evie wonder what he’s hiding.
Special agent Deke Conrad is in big trouble. Not only does he have a thing for his friend’s little sister, but what should be a routine mission is turning into a tour of temptation and survival. He fooled himself into thinking he could keep the beautiful and dynamic Evie in the dark while he used the cover of her Med Mobile to track down a merciless wildlife trafficker. But he didn’t anticipate the lure of her scent or the warmth of her smile…or the string of dead bodies littering their path.
Steele Ridge, Western North Carolina
Deke pushed through the door of Blues, Brews, and Books—or, as the locals liked to say, Triple B. It was good to be back in Steele Ridge, which had formerly been named Canyon Ridge. His family had moved here right before he entered the fourth grade and stayed through his junior year before returning to their hometown of Rockton.
For him, Steele Ridge would always be his true home. He’d made lifelong friends here, and it was the place where he’d become a man.
His eyes took a moment to adjust before settling on the lone figure stationed at the bar. Zigzagging his way around islands of low and high tables, he slapped his friend’s broad shoulder. “Hello, shit for brains.”
Rather than be startled by such an abrupt greeting, Britt Steele angled his lumberjack body around and held out his hand. “You’re late.” He shook Deke’s hand before bellying up to the bar again. “Some of us have to return to work, you know.”
Deke slid onto the barstool kiddie corner to his friend’s. “Can’t even work up an ounce of sympathy.” He nodded to the bartender, Grady. “My last vacation was over a year ago. I’m going to enjoy every second of the next fourteen days.”
Britt eyed the sling cradling his arm. “What happened? Keyboard attack you?”
Deke did his damnedest not to lie to those he cared about. As far as his friends and family knew, he worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Office of External Affairs, traveling all over the Southeast Region in search of his next story. Or he could be found cooped up at the Asheville field office banging out articles for the Service’s quarterly newsletter. All true—but not the whole truth.
“You have no idea how threatening the office environment can be.”
“And I hope I never do. How are you healing?”
The dull, throbbing pain in his shoulder served as a constant reminder of how quickly a mission could go wrong, even with hours of careful planning. Matteo had gotten the worst of it, though. SONR’s engineer had spent three days in the hospital after the surgeon had dug the arrow out of his leg. The damned thing had gone so deep that the tip had embedded in bone.
Clenching his jaw, Deke flexed his fingers and lifted his elbow until the action caused an involuntary wince. Better than yesterday, but he wouldn’t be playing basketball anytime soon.
“What do you have planned, besides lunch with a friend you’ve blown off for months?”
“Not a damn thing.”
“You’re going to stare at your apartment walls for the next two weeks?”
“Maybe. If the mood strikes.”
“Don’t see it. I’ve never known you to be idle, in over twenty-five years.”
“I’m hoping to sleep away the first two days.” Deke rubbed his tired eyes. “I’ll see where things go from there.”
He chose his words carefully. “They get more complicated every time.”
“Complicated how? Don’t you just go into an area, interview people, take some pictures and then write up an article?”
“I wish it were that simple.”
“What can I get you?” Grady asked.
“Surprise me.” He glanced at Britt. “You order food yet?”
“Yeah. Hope you’re in the mood for a burger.”
“Do you order for Randi?”
“Not a chance,” a new voice said.
Randi Shepherd cuddled against Britt’s side and kissed him. Although she kept it short, Deke could feel the power of their intimacy from two feet away. A pang of envy clutched his chest, and he shifted his attention to Grady’s nimble hands. What he wouldn’t give to have a woman love him as Randi loves Britt. It was a notion that had filtered through his thoughts a lot lately.
“He knows better.” Randi wrapped Deke in a warm hug. “Seems like forever since we saw you last. You gonna hang around Steele Ridge for a while?”
“I’d planned to. Mind if I rent the loft above the bar for a few days?”
“Of course. I’ll have someone run up there to see if it’s habitable.”
“Thought you didn’t have a plan,” Britt said.
“My plan is not to have a plan.”
Randi laughed. “Let me go check on your food.”
He watched his friend’s gaze follow Randi from the room. “How’s domestic life treating you?”
“Bit of an adjustment at first, but we’ve settled into a groove now.”
“A good one?”
“How’s the Center?”
Thanks to a hefty investment from Britt’s younger brother, he was running a Wildlife Research Center on the outskirts of town.
“I hired a botanist to study the red wolves’ habitat and the surrounding conservation area.”
“Is that trepidation or skepticism I hear in your voice?”
“Fear.” Britt lifted a beer mug to his lips. “She’s my cousin.”
He searched his memory for another conservationist in the Steele family. “Not Riley.”
“Ding, ding, ding.”
“The Kingston menace?”
“What the hell were you thinking? She used to plant shit bombs in our sleeping bags.”
“She just got back from a research expedition in Costa Rica and needed a job. The Center needed a botanist, so everyone’s happy.”
“Can’t wait to see how long that lasts.”
A gust of air signaled the arrival of a newcomer to Triple B. Even before Deke turned, a buzz of awareness sprinted down his spine. Only one person had ever had that effect on him.
The last person who should.
Even though he’d known her since she’d toddled around on chubby legs, he’d first noticed her crystal blue eyes, silken black hair, and long, long legs right after she turned sixteen. He’d come upon her sunbathing in a gut-socking white bikini. The sight had stopped him cold. Then the heat had come. Scorching, blood-searing heat.
When she’d glanced at him over her bare shoulder and thrown out her sweet Evie smile, he could only stare at the way the triangle of white material molded her firm ass. She’d twisted around, and his attention had torn from her rounded bottom to mouthwatering breasts that would fit his hand perfectly.
Somewhere between fifteen and sixteen, his Squirt had…developed. And he’d stirred. For her. Evie. The girl who, up to that point, had been like a sister to him. Guilt had consumed him.
For years afterwards, he’d done everything he could to avoid her.
Avoidance hadn’t stopped his thoughts. His vivid dreams. His comparing every woman he looked at to Evie’s perfection.
Evie Steele had squirmed her way into every conscious thought and desire he possessed. No amount of cursing, women, or distance had managed to shake her hold.
At one point, when she’d cleared high school, he’d considered braving Britt’s big brother wrath and asking her out. But she’d plunged into college and nursing school at the same time he’d been invited to join a newly formed black ops unit with the Service.
Now, four years later, their journeys were still worlds apart. With a degree under her belt, Evie would be starting a career. Whereas kids, family, and settling down had begun visiting his thoughts, as of late.
Britt had found soul-searing happiness with Randi. She smoothed his edges, cared for him in a way no one else ever had. And he’d almost lost the love of his life to a greed-driven trophy hunter.
The power of that kind of love struck fear in Deke’s heart and warmed it, at the same time. Problem was, he didn’t have a wife, fiancée, or even a girlfriend. Not one viable candidate.
His gaze locked on Evie’s across the bar, and the pressure on his chest intensified, became crushing. Time had passed, and his lecherous guilt had faded. They were both adults now. If not for the twelve years separating their ages, Evie might have been the one.
But he could never ask her to put her career on hold to be with him and start a family. What if she did and then couldn’t stomach the demands of his career? She would’ve given up so much, for what?
He swallowed back his longing and returned to his beer, allowing the familiar mask to drop in place.
Forcing away the memory of last year’s stolen kiss.
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