Caring for his traumatized son is widowed FBI agent Luke Tanner's number one priority. But when he becomes temporary fire chief in a small mountain town, a case sparks out of his control. Luke suspects the late former chief of arson and murder--until the man's daughter returns to Pine Lake. Kitty McGuire is determined to prove her father was framed. As they work together, Kitty connects with Luke's troubled family in a way that surprises Luke--and fills him with hope. Maybe they have a chance at happiness after all...until their investigation ignites a firestorm that could engulf them all.
The shattering glass broke the stillness of the moonlit forest, startling sleeping birds into flight and scattering grazing deer in the meadow below. As the last tinkling echo faded away, Kitty McGuire studied the hole she'd created in the back door of the mountain cabin.
Tree branches rustled. A twig snapped. Heart pounding, she whirled and pointed the flashlight beam into the woods. Nothing stirred. Then an owl lifted to the air, its wings silhouetted against the full moon. Kitty sighed as the bird soared toward California's majestic Sierra Mountain range.
The air held a tang of fresh, clean snow from the highest of the Four Sisters' rugged peaks standing like sentries over the little valley. Her father had loved the Sisters, claiming they brought him good luck. Instead, they'd overshadowed his death.
Kitty blinked back hot, angry tears as she punched out the last triangle of stubborn glass and turned the deadbolt. Her hand hesitated on the doorknob as she fought the urge to jump in her Jeep and race back to L.A. She hadn't planned to return to Pine Lake two months after the funeral. Only a murder accusation against her father could've drawn her back to a place overflowing with aching memories.
Tomorrow she'd hunt down the sheriff and the new fire chief, Luke Tanner, to set the record straight. Her father had died as he'd lived--an honorable public servant--and no one could prove otherwise. Then she could be out of here forever.
With renewed determination, she stepped into the dark kitchen, a blanket of stale air engulfing her. She batted at the filmy web clinging to her forehead.
Kitty shivered and tucked her hair firmly under her baseball cap. Scanning the rafters for any looming creatures, she felt along the wall for the light switch and flipped it. Nothing happened. A fuse must've blown, a common occurrence in the cabin's ancient wiring system.
She yanked open the drawer where her father had kept the spare fuses and stared in dismay at the jumbled pile. She tugged open the next drawer, and then the next. They were all in the same state of chaos. Her fingers sifted through the utensils, matches and other kitchen items. No fuses. Maybe there were extra in the utility box. Slammimg the drawers shut, she turned, and choked back a scream.
A large dog stood in the open doorway, a stream of moonlight gleaming off his fangs. The beast's nails clicked on the vinyl floor as he stalked toward her. A low growl rumbled from its chest.
"Good dog. It--it's okay. Stay!" she said hoarsely. The dog stilled, but the rumbling intensified. Kitty snagged a heavy copper canister of flour. If she threw it and distracted the dog, maybe she could dash outside and close the door.
Sweat trickled down her back. She inched along the counter. Almost there. Lifting the canister, she fumbled behind her for the doorknob, but instead of cold metal, her fingers brushed against something damp and warm.
"Got you!" a husky male voice said. His arm wrapped around her neck, slamming her back against him. The canister flew out of her hand, exploding against the rafters. Flour showered down on them. The dog barked. The man coughed, his chest heaving.
Holding her breath, Kitty wrenched free and darted out the door. She tore around the corner toward her Jeep, but the man tackled her and knocked her into a pile of pine needles.
He pinned her flat. "Freeze!"
She froze. His heart pounded against her spine. Even with her nose pressed into the pine needles, she smelled his male scent of sweat and musk.
"You're not getting away this time," he said.
She twisted frantically under him....