by Sara Humphreys
He could be the man to rescue her
Big city K-9 cop Ronan McGuire loves women, loves his dog, loves his job—but when old flame Maddy Morgan moves into his jurisdiction, he can’t think about anyone else. Ronan knows she’s way out of his league, but he’s determined to help Maddy live life to the fullest.
In more ways than one
With tragedy in her past, Maddy has immersed herself in work and swiftly made a name for herself in the hot New York City real estate market. She’s looking for safety, not love, but Ronan McGuire is as persistent as he is sexy, and his crooked smile is hard to resist. But all other concerns are wiped away when Maddy goes missing and Ronan and his bloodhound K-9 partner are tasked with finding her and bringing her home.
“If you don’t behave and stay off this ankle, you won’t get your ice cream. As fate would have it, you just happen to have my favorite flavor, and I might go in there and eat it all up.”
“Lots of people like mint chip,” Maddy said quickly. “Besides, you’re not the boss of me. It’s my life, Officer McGuire, and I’ll have ice cream for dinner if I want to. So there.”
“Your life, huh?” Ronan arched one eyebrow and loosened his hold on her calf, lightly trailing his fingers over the exposed flesh. “If you ask me, you haven’t been doing much living since you moved here.”
“What are you talking about?” Maddy stilled, and her cheeks turned pink.
“This apartment is more like a showroom than a home.” Ronan adjusted the bag of peas and leaned his elbows on the edge of the couch. He shrugged. “It looks like you’re never here, but I know that’s not true. If you aren’t working or out jogging with me on a Saturday morning, you’re holed up in here like a hermit. You’ve been here for over a year, but this place barely looks lived in.”
“Hey!” That feisty spirit was back, and fire burned in those blue eyes. “I ama hermit. I am the top-performing real estate agent in the most successful real estate agency in this city despite having to deal with a staff of people who sometimes act more like children than functioning adults. Take last night, for example. I was supposed to be training one of our newest hires on how to run an open house, and the little blond dingbat never showed. No text. No phone call. Nothing. I have a full plate, McGuire.”
Ronan stilled. Blond? The girl they had found in the park this morning was blond. She had no ID on her, but she was likely in her early to midtwenties, and based on the clothing she had left on her body, she was corporate. Not a pro or party girl, but a woman who had been at work or planning to go to work.
A knot of dread curled in his gut. The detectives had said the crime scene looked eerily similar to Lucille Bowman’s. He must have been looking at Maddy funny because she had stopped talking and was staring at him with a puzzled expression.
“Hello?” She snapped her fingers in front of his face. “Are you listening to me? If you’re going to insult me, the least you could do is let me rant at you a little.”
“I’m sorry.” Ronan shook his head. “I was thinking about work.”
Damn it. He’d deliberately been avoiding any discussion of the woman in the park, but the topic was the undeniable elephant in the room. Silence settled between them, and Maddy folded her arms. Ronan let out a frustrated breath and looked past her to Bowser who was oblivious to it all, having fallen asleep on the floor in front of the door.
So much for guard-dog duty.
“Is that why you’re giving me a hard time about? Because of the girl in the park?” Maddy’s voice shook. “Because don’t think for that I don’t know how fragile life is, okay? Believe me, I know. Life can change in an instant. One minute everything is normal and you’re arguing about what to watch on television or what to make for breakfast in the morning…and the next…”
When he turned his attention back to Maddy and saw one tear fall down her cheek, he cursed under his breath. Without thinking about it, Ronan reached out and cradled her face with one hand, then swiped the tear away. Her eyes were closed, a fan of dark lashes resting on fair skin beneath them, and those full pink lips quivered.
“Ah, Maddy,” Ronan whispered. He pressed a kiss to her forehead. His voice was gruff and strained, full of emotions he didn’t quite have a name for yet. “I’m sorry. Look, sometimes I can be an insensitive asshole. Chalk it up to growing up in a house full of boys. But I’m worried about you. It’s like you’re hiding from the whole world…but please, don’t hide from me.”
When Maddy didn’t open her eyes, Ronan settled his forehead against hers. She sucked in a shuddering breath and curled her hands around his wrists. For a second he thought she was going to push him away, but she didn’t; she held him closer instead. He wasn’t sure how long they stayed that way, nose to nose, heart to heart. No words were spoken, and yet he felt more connected to her than to anyone else in recent memory.
He flicked his tongue over his suddenly dry lips before brushing them over hers. A breathy sigh mingled with a needy whimper escaped her luscious mouth and the sound drove him wild. But Ronan fought for restraint. The last thing he wanted to do was scare her off.
Her lips reminded him of plums, soft and sweet, and he reveled in the sensation as they melded with his. Maddy tangled her fingers in his hair, and he groaned when her tongue sought entrance, pushing into his mouth gently but eagerly. Ronan tilted her head, taking control of the kiss, and dove deep. She sat up and he moved with her, wanting to savor every bit of contact while still being mindful of her ankle.
Maddy sighed into his mouth as her hands slipped beneath his jacket and shirt. When her fingers splayed over the flesh of his lower back and dipped beneath the band of his running pants, all of the blood rushed from his head to other parts of his anatomy. His body started screaming for more—more of her touch, more of her taste—but his brain told him to slow the hell down. Emotions were running high for both of them. If they took this too far too fast, whatever thiswas between them could get snuffed out before they had a chance to explore it.
She was vulnerable, so taking it any further right now would be a shitty move. Ronan broke the kiss and pulled back, her face cradled between his hands. Her heavily lidded eyes were glazed with the unmistakable air of lust, and her lips were swollen from his kisses. Maddy tried to kiss him again, but he held her mouth a mere inch from his.
Her brow furrowed and confusion flickered across her face.
“What’s wrong?” she said through heavy breaths. “I thought this was what you wanted.”
“It is,” he rasped. “But I don’t think—”
The shrill ring of the cell phone in her pocket cut him off. Even if it hadn’t, the annoyed look in Maddy’s eyes would have put an end to things. She let out a curt laugh and removed the phone from her jacket before pulling away from him.
“You surprise me, McGuire. I never thought that you, the big stud I’ve heard about all these years, wouldn’t close the deal.” She pressed her phone to her ear and leaned against the cushions. “Maddy Morgan speaking. How can I help you?”
Ronan rocked onto his heels before rising to his feet. She avoided looking at him, but he couldn’t miss the irritated expression on her face. Great. He was screwing things up at every turn.
He ran both of his hands over his face and strode to the windows while Maddy took her call. Something about an appointment tomorrow and scheduling or rescheduling. The woman even worked on Sundays. Did she ever stop and breathe, or even take a moment to enjoy in the view from her own apartment? He pulled aside the drapes with one hand and looked out. The city was beautiful from up here. The windows overlooked the West Side and gave a partial view of Central Park.
Yup. It was easy as hell for her to hide up here, and why wouldn’t she? Had anyone tried to stop her? Ronan glanced over his shoulder at her. The flush from their encounter still lingered on her cheeks, and in that moment, he decided enough was enough. She’d had the opportunity to grieve and regroup—plenty of it—but it was time to change things up.
Sara Humphreys is the award-winning author of two paranormal romance series. The McGuire Brothers series is her first foray into contemporary romance, and the first in the series is an RT Book Reviews Top Pick. A public speaker and public speaker trainer, Sara lives with her husband and four sons in Bronxville, New York.
Three copies of Brave the Heat!